Trevis Gipson couldn’t get a Division I program to offer him a scholarship as a high school player in the Dallas area. Then the coaches at Tulsa saw something they just couldn’t resist.
Gipson was a pass rusher but brought the quickness and athleticism of a basketball player. The problem was he also had the body of a basketball player at 6-5, 200 pounds, which was why most scouts believed he was too small for major college football.
But if Gipson was willing to be as relentless about bulking up as he was about charging into the backfield, there was potential.
“He had a great frame to build on, but there needed to be some work on top of that,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. “And he was very disciplined about how he needed to add weight, and did a great job of that.”
He certainly did. Gipson put on close to 60 pounds over his five years with Tulsa and caught the Bears’ attention with a breakout senior season of 15 tackles for loss (including eight sacks) and two forced fumbles. The Bears took him in the fifth round at No. 155 last month and plan to groom him in one of the NFL’s best defenses.
It’s a simple formula, apparently, if there’s anyone out there looking to gain 60 pounds.
“It was really just drinking protein shakes, drinking a lot of water, lifting a lot of weights, peanut butter and jellies, milkshakes,” Gipson said. “Really just eating a lot and working out.”
Gipson is still underdeveloped, but he checks all the boxes of a project worth undertaking. His natural ability will take him a long way, but he also has a reputation for being willing to do whatever is asked of him. Montgomery called him one of the best leaders he has coached.
He’ll be a follower now, growing under the guidance of defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano and expert pass rushers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. Gipson primarily played defensive end at Tulsa but is expected to work at outside linebacker in the Bears’ 3-4 defense.
“The things I liked about him were that he’s athletic and long — things you just can’t coach,” said ESPN analyst Rene Ingoglia, who was on the broadcast team for a Tulsa game each of the last two seasons. “He’s kind of raw, so he’s still learning, but he’s got a great first step off the edge, and that’s phenomenal. Once he learns a couple moves, he’s gonna be a great selection for the Bears.
“He was also the captain of his team and one of their hardest working players. Sometimes you get guys who think they’re better than they really are, and I don’t think he’s like that. If he develops into what I think he can be, you’ve got a home run.”
Everything Montgomery and Ingoglia described was clear to Bears general manager Ryan Pace during a Skype session with Gipson ahead of the draft.
“Some guys come across just natural and authentic in their interviews, and I think Gipson definitely did,” Pace said. “You could feel the hunger in his voice, the drive and the desire to be great, the passion. . . . You just felt that in the way he talked.”
Now the Bears hope he lives up to those aspirations, and the advantage is that he has time to get there. The team certainly doesn’t need him to start over Mack and Quinn and isn’t depending on him to immediately be a second-stringer, either. Gipson should get a chance to grow slowly, and if he progresses the way he did at Tulsa, landing him in the fifth round will be a steal for the Bears.