EAST LANSING, Mich. – Former Michigan State All-American wide receiver Kirk Gibson has been named one of 10 players and three coaches to the College Football Hall of Fame. The 2017 Class was announced Monday morning live on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
A four-year letterman who played for both Denny Stolz (1975) and Darryl Rogers (1976-78), Gibson earned first-team All-Big Ten and first-team All-America honors as a senior while helping lead the Spartans to a share of the 1978 Big Ten Championship and a No. 12 national ranking by The Associated Press. He set career highs in receptions (42), receiving yards (806) and touchdown receptions (7) in 1978. The 806 receiving yards in a single season established a school record at the time, breaking his own record of 748 he set as a sophomore.
A native of Waterford, Michigan, Gibson led the Spartans in receiving yards for three straight seasons (1976-78) and is still the only Spartan to lead the Big Ten in receptions in conference games twice (30 for 486 yards and 4 TDs in 1976; 31 for 613 yards and 5 TDs in 1978).
Gibson closed out his career as MSU's all-time leader in receptions (112), receiving yards (2,347) and TD receptions (24). He had seven 100-yard receiving games, tied for sixth most in the MSU record book, including a career-best 173-yard performance against North Carolina State as a sophomore in 1976 that set a single-game record at the time. He still ranks No. 1 in school history in yards per catch (21.0) and third in touchdown catches (24) and fourth in receiving yards (2,347).
“It’s an incredible honor to be selected to the College Football Hall of Fame,” said Gibson. “But I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize all those who were there to lift me up when I was down, or those who kicked me in the ass when it was warranted. I was blessed to have dedicated and supportive family, friends, teammates and coaches. This award is in honor of all of them and significant in illustrating the power of we.”
Gibson and the 1978 Spartans also set then-school records in numerous team offensive categories, including passing yards per game (239.1), total yards per game (481.2), total points (411) and scoring average (37.4). During conference games, the high-powered Spartan offense ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring (41.0 avg.), first downs (26.0 avg.), passing (247.9 avg.) and total offense (523.1 avg.). MSU’s 523.1 yards of total offense per game was a Big Ten record until 2013 and still ranks second best in league history for conference games (Ohio State, 531.2 in 2013).
Gibson turned in a pair of 100-yard receiving games as a senior, including a 146-yard performance on three catches vs. Indiana, the highest single-game total in the Big Ten in 1978. One of his receptions against the Hoosiers was an 86-yard TD toss from Ed Smith, the longest pass play in the conference that season. Gibson was named the Outstanding Offensive End by the New York Downtown Athletic Club for his record-setting year in 1978 and also earned the President’s Award from MSU. Following his senior season, Gibson played in the Senior Bowl and Hula Bowl, and although he chose a professional baseball career, he was still selected in the seventh round of the 1979 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.
As a junior in 1977, Gibson was selected second-team All-Big Ten after hauling in 22 passes for 531 yards and six TDs. He had a career-high three 100-yard receiving games that season (vs. Wyoming, four receptions for 115 yards; vs. Minnesota, three for 148; vs. Northwestern, three for 103).
During his sophomore season in 1976, Gibson picked up second-team All-Big Ten accolades and was named the team’s most outstanding underclass back as he set a then-school record with 748 receiving yards on 39 catches. He also had seven TD receptions, including an 82-yarder in the season opener at Ohio State.
In his freshman season in 1975, Gibson had nine receptions for 262 yards and four scores. In the regular-season finale at Iowa, he caught an 82-yard touchdown pass from Charlie Baggett. Gibson had four touchdown receptions of 80-plus yards in his career.
A member of the 1994 MSU Athletics Hall of Fame Class, Gibson was named to the Michigan State Centennial Super Squad in 1996. He is also a member of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
Gibson also earned All-America honors in baseball for the Spartans in 1978, batting .390 with a then-school record 16 home runs along with 52 RBIs. He helped the Spartans to a 33-21 record and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Gibson is one of five Spartans in program history to have his number (No. 30) honored on the wall at McLane Baseball Stadium.
A first-round draft pick (No. 12 overall) by the Detroit Tigers in 1978, Gibson went on to a distinguished 17-year career in Major League Baseball, playing with the Tigers (1979-87, 1993-95), Los Angeles Dodgers (1988-90), Kansas City Royals (1991) and Pittsburgh Pirates (1992). He batted .268 with 255 home runs, 870 RBIs and 284 stolen bases during his career and played an integral role on two World Championship teams (Detroit, 1984; Los Angeles, 1988). He was selected National League MVP in 1988 after batting .290 with 25 home runs and 76 RBI for the Dodgers.
Gibson also managed five seasons (2010-14) with the Arizona Diamondbacks and was named the 2011 National League Manager of the Year after leading the Diamondbacks to the NL West title. He is just one of four people in MLB history to win both an MVP award and Manger of the Year award.
Gibson currently serves as a Detroit Tigers analyst on FOX Sports Detroit. Gibson becomes the ninth former Michigan State player to be selected for the College Football Hall of Fame, joining halfback John Pingel (inducted in 1968), tackle Don Coleman (1975), linebacker George Webster (1987), defensive end Bubba Smith (1988), safety Brad Van Pelt (2001), wide receiver Gene Washington (2011), linebacker Percy Snow (2013) and running back Clinton Jones (2015). As MSU's latest inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, Gibson’s name will be added to Spartan Stadium's "Ring of Fame" this upcoming 2017 season.
Gibson will be officially inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame at the NFF College Football Hall of Fame's 60th Annual Awards Dinner Dec. 5 at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City. The inductees will also be honored at the National Hall of Fame Salute at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Jan. 1, 2018, and they will be recognized at their respective collegiate institutions with NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salutes, presented by Fidelity Investments, during the fall. Their accomplishments will be forever immortalized at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
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