Thomas Gipson has committed his athletic life to basketball, learning to dribble at a young age and refusing to participate in other sports. Even when friends told him he had an ideal body for football, the 6-foot-7, 265-pound former Kansas State forward kept his focus on hoops.
Then the Green Bay Packers called.
And, well, there is something about taking a call from a NFL scout that made him soften his stance on other sports.
“I have never played organized football, ever,” Gipson told the Eagle in an interview Friday. “But I am ready to start. Depending on what the Packers tell me, I am ready to fully commit to football.”
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Gipson worked out for a Green Bay scout earlier this week at K-State’s indoor practice facility, and later posted videos of the session on Twitter. He showed off his potential football skills as a tight end, catching throws in a stationary position and running routes.
It was far from a perfect display, but he showed soft hands and caught passes thrown over his back shoulder. A solid debut. All things considered, he thinks he did well.
“They said they liked my size and my hands,” Gipson said. “I caught the ball pretty well and I moved well. They said I move pretty athletic for a guy my size.
“I put in a week’s worth of practice before the workout. I really don’t know what to do a lot of time, but it came natural to me. The nice thing is they understood that. When they called, they said they knew I haven’t played. They just wanted to see if I was willing to work with them, and I was.”
The workout came as a complete surprise. When the K-State basketball team ended its season with a loss to TCU in the Big 12 Tournament, Gipson said he planned to pursue a professional career in his natural sport. Reaching the NBA was his goal, but he was also willing to play overseas. After scoring more than 1,000 points in his K-State career, he had options.
An unexpected call during spring break altered those plans.
When a Green Bay scout told Gipson he thought he had a future at tight end, Gipson began catching footballs in his free time.
“They said they had seen me playing during the Kansas game,” Gipson said, “and I guess they had been following me ever since. They watched film on me and called me, and they said they wanted to see me play tight end. It was kind of exciting.”
The NFL is littered with tight ends and receivers that have basketball backgrounds. Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas were both recruited as college basketball players before switching sports. Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Terrell Owens all played college hoops.
Could Gipson follow the same path to the NFL? He wants to find out.
“I have looked all that stuff up. I am not oblivious to it,” Gipson said. “I’m sure I can do it. That’s just how I am. I try to be a perfectionist in everything I do. If I have the chance to be a tight end, I am going to be the best tight end that I can be.”
Though Gipson has never worn football pads, he comes from an athletic family. His father player basketball at Texas and his younger brother, Trevis, will play college football at Tulsa.
Gipson admits it may take some time for him to adjust to blocking and colliding with other players if the Packers ask him to try out for the team after the NFL Draft, but he is not worried. His size should take care of that. At least in this sport he can’t be called for charging.
“The main things I want to work on are my footwork and getting low and moving and blocking,” Gipson said. “I thought catching the ball was going to be pretty easy, because it is part of basketball. I kind of knew that part wasn’t going to be a problem.”
What’s next for Gipson? It depends on what the Packers think of his workout. He expects to hear back from them this weekend. If they like what they saw, and invite him to training camp, he will put basketball on hold and chase a professional football career.
If they tell him the opposite, he will line up basketball workouts. Either way, he will be happy.
It’s nice to have professional options in two sports.
“It’s a blessing,” Gipson said. “At the end of the day, even if football doesn’t work out, I will have time for NBA workouts. I am still doing cardio. I am still lifting. I am staying in shape. It’s just a great opportunity.”