It was 2012, and the former high school phenom had transferred from the University of Texas to SMU after going 7-7 as the Longhorns’ starting quarterback and being demoted to third string. He admittedly spent too much time listening to the boos and reading negative articles.
His childhood dream of starring for his hometown team in Austin had turned into a nightmare.
His confidence was shot. The decision-making and accuracy that had made him one of the country’s top prospects a few years earlier needed an overhaul.
“When we got him at SMU, he had been through hell, I guess is a good way to say it,” said former SMU coach June Jones, now the head coach of the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. “So helping him through that whole situation and getting him back on track to how he was as a high school player took us a while.
“I knew he could play in the National Football League. I tried my hardest to get him there.”nike nfl jerseys cheap china
It took a while, but Gilbert finally is getting a shot in the NFL. After four seasons of bouncing between practice squads and the bottom of rosters with the Rams, Patriots, Lions and Raiders, the 27-year-old is the leading candidate to be the backup to 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton with the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers made the decision to go young with Gilbert and Taylor Heinicke (25) over veteran Derek Anderson (35), who had been Carolina’s backup since Newton was the top pick of the 2011 draft.
Gilbert is here because former Panthers senior executive scout Don Gregory, whose contract was recently not renewed, witnessed the comeback firsthand.
“Don saw what we were able to do with him at SMU and knew he had it inside himself to be the guy,” said Jones, who was a teammate of Gregory’s at Portland State.
That definitely was a pivotal time in Gilbert’s career.
“That was a great experience for me, as far as just figuring out how to battle through things,” Gilbert said. “To be able to bounce back and have a couple of good years at SMU certainly prepared me for this part of my career.”
New offensive coordinator Norv Turner was reminded of the success that backups Keenum and Philadelphia’s Nick Foles, the MVP of Super Bowl LII, had last season after being forced into duty.
“Somewhere along the way you’re probably going to play a guy that has limited experience,” Turner said.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping
Limited experience might be putting it kindly in Gilbert’s situation. His next snap in an NFL regular-season game will be his first.
But Gilbert doesn’t look at that as a negative. He relishes the opportunity should Newton have to miss a few snaps or even games, remembering that he has a lot of talent and veteran leadership around him to be successful.