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Heading Into the Final Lap : College football: Coy Gibbs will join his father's auto racing business after finishing season as Stanford linebacker.

October 28, 1994|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The finish line is in view, bringing with it happiness and sadness, remorse and relief.

Four more weeks of football for Coy Gibbs, but only four more weeks before it all becomes a memory and friends are left behind.

Four more weeks of late-night plane trips for Joe Gibbs, but only four more weeks of sitting in the stands, yelling for his son, a Stanford linebacker.

Four more weeks of football, including Saturday's game at the Rose Bowl against UCLA. Then four weeks of classes, and Pat Gibbs gets her brood together in Charlotte, N.C.

"We're excited about that," Joe Gibbs said. "When the boys got separated from me and went off to college, that's when my life changed and that's when I decided to change my life and get back to something where I could get everybody back together."

Gibbs was a workaholic coach who lived at the office during the season. It paid off in three Super Bowl victories in 10 seasons with the Washington Redskins, but the price was being separated from Pat and sons Coy and J.D.

Cross-country plane trips to watch Stanford and leaving the Redskins to create a family auto racing business were intended to make up for those 10 seasons. Everybody benefits, but Joe and Pat the most. Coy and J.D. get jobs, and the Gibbses get their family back home.

"Some people would say I missed my dad, but he was out there making a living for us," Coy said. "That's a lot more important, putting food on the table, than spending an hour or so with you. . . .

"I think it hurts the dads more than the kids. There's guilt or something. I think he has it, but I also think you're going to feel that way if you spend 10 hours a day with your kid. You're going to think, 'I didn't spend enough time.' "

He tried to watch J.D. and Coy play as often as possible, but it often wasn't possible, particularly when they went to college. J.D. Gibbs was a defensive back at William and Mary, 3 1/2 hours from Washington and close enough for Joe to see some games.

Coy Gibbs visited only Stanford and Wake Forest, and at first only Stanford offered a scholarship among Division I-A schools. He still bridles at the memory.

"I hadn't even gotten a visit from (Virginia), where I really wanted to go. . . . I was pretty bummed."

He had prepared at Redskin training camps, watching the linebackers and, said Joe, learned a few things he shouldn't have.

"Coy would watch the linebackers, would watch Larry Peccatello do drills, and I'd laugh and tell the players, 'You gave my kids those bad habits they have.' I'm talking about language and everything else."

Coy had done everything he could to position himself for college, transferring to DeMatha High in Hyattsville, Md., from Madison High near his home in Vienna, Va. Perhaps more famous for its basketball alumni, DeMatha is also a football power that sent 15 players to Division I schools in his senior year. But it involved a 45-minute commute, a drive he tried to shorten.

"My best was about 80 or 85 m.p.h.," he said. "I knew where all the cops were, so I could slow down so nobody could catch me from behind."

Maybe it's genetic. Joe Gibbs was a lead-foot teen-ager around the drive-ins of Downey, Norwalk and Whittier.

And maybe it was practice for Coy Gibbs' future. He wants to drive race cars.

Stanford wasn't sure what it was getting except it knew Gibbs was an undersized linebacker with a big-sized family name. He is a bit under six feet, 212 pounds.

Joe Gibbs tried to prepare his son.

"Being the football coach and supposedly the intelligent guy I am, I told him, 'You're going to spend a year redshirting, and you'll probably spend another year or two playing special teams because you're going to a big college.' Then he goes out and starts as a true freshman. That shows you how smart I am."

Stanford's inside linebackers were battered in the 1991 season-opener, against Washington, and Coy Gibbs started Game 2. He has been there since, throwing his body about recklessly, picking up personal-foul penalties and, this season, leading the Cardinal in tackles with 60.

He also has seen the defense go from one of the nation's best in 1992, to one of the worst. Stanford (2-4-1) is last in scoring defense in the Pacific 10 Conference.

Many of the defensive players from 1992 are playing in the NFL. Now much of this year's defense is made up of freshmen.

In four more weeks, there will be room for one more.

"I've had my fill of football," Coy said. "I'm not that big and my body has gotten crunched over the years. I'm just going to be happy if I get out of football and can go skiing in 10 years and not feel the pain. I've got some knees that are pretty bad."

He will start with Joe Gibbs Racing. The business is expanding with a drag racing operation.

Coy Gibbs will be working in the front office, learning the business, much as his brother has with the NASCAR operation. He won't race dragsters--"You couldn't pay me enough to get in one of those things"--but he will spend time at North Carolina Charlotte, because he won't be finished with his Stanford degree.

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