ROMEOVILLE – When Oliver Gibson was inducted into the Joliet Area Sports Hall of Fame on June 19, the most famous athlete from Romeoville High School had something interesting he wanted to say.
And that was he was going to become the new head coach of the Spartans football team for the 2015 season.
But because of a labor matter, the Valley View School District 365U Board of Education did not accept him for that position during its July meeting.
That resulted in the rather unusual scenario in which a new head football coach wouldn’t be hired until the day practices began.
Gibson’s hiring finally was approved Monday night. The 1990 Romeoville graduate who played nine seasons in the National Football League became the new Spartans coach.
“It’s real exciting,” Gibson said. “They say that you only feel pressure when you’re not prepared for something. But that’s the reason why I went from playing in the NFL to trying to figure out what I wanted to do to coaching at a couple of junior colleges and then coming home and volunteering and working at six different high schools in the Chicagoland area.
“I became the defensive coordinator at Evanston through a strange turn of events in which a friend of mine – who was the defensive coordinator and brought me there – passed away. I think that prepared me for this, which is the challenge that I’m supposed to have.
“I’ve had a lot of great coaches. Bill Wienke was a mentor to me. And then there was Dennis Schley and Jim Boudouris, a lot of great folks. And there was a teacher and coach named Tony Fazio who recently passed away. A friend of mine and I were talking about what an influence they had on us.”
In 1989, Gibson was selected as USA Today’s Defensive Player of the Year and was named as a Parade Magazine All-American. The linebacker was such a big name that SportsChannel America came to Romeoville to broadcast a game against Lockport.
He hopes to bring back some pride to his old program, which made the playoffs 11 times and had 14 winning seasons from 1983 and 2002 but has only won 26 games and qualified for the postseason once during the past 12 years.
“I’m going to tell you, the triple-option is coming back,” Gibson said. “It will be a big surprise to whoever we play. We call it the triple-option tradition, and I believe it’s important to have pride in your home town.
“Coach Boudouris said he was waiting for me to call him. He wanted me to come in and have a conversation about my commitment since he knew that I was chasing other jobs. Once we sat and talked, he knew that things would probably work themselves out.”
Gibson’s credentials in the sport are as impressive as anyone who ever has become a head coach in the Joliet area.
After being a standout at Notre Dame from 1990 to 1995, he was selected in the fourth round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He played four years with the Steelers and was on their 1996 Super Bowl team. Then he went on to a five-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals. During his nine years in the NFL, Gibson finished with 243 tackles and 17.5 sacks as a defensive lineman.
“Honestly, it’s about keeping Romeoville kids in Romeoville,” Gibson said. “There used to be a talent divide in the district, but the demographics have changed so there’s talent here.
“When I talk to the kids, I tell them that everything that they’ve been through, I’ve been through. And everywhere that you want to go from Romeoville, you can do it.”