Justin Gilbert’s future will be with the Cleveland Browns.
Gilbert, a standout player with the Hornets and then with Oklahoma State, became the highest draft pick in Huntsville history after being selected eighth overall by Cleveland in the NFL Draft on Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
“It really hit home when I stepped onto the stage with the commissioner, Roger Goodell,” Gilbert said in a phone interview Thursday night.
“Not many people get this opportunity. It’s a blessing. Everything tonight was wonderful.”
On a night that saw a lifetime dream come true, no one could’ve been beaming brighter than his mother, Iwanna Rolling.
“We are just so proud of him,” Rolling said.
Just before Gilbert was drafted, the Browns executed a trade with the Minnesota Vikings to move up from the No. 9 spot to No. 8.
Once that move was made, Gilbert figured that he would hear his name, considering he had a last-minute meeting with the Browns on Monday.
“The day before I actually got here in New York, I met with the Browns in a hotel in Houston,” Gilbert told NFL Network’s Deion Sanders, who Gilbert said he modeled himself after while playing for the Hornets. “They flew all the way down to meet with me, so I had a pretty good feeling.
“They didn’t really say they were going to pick me. They were just asking me a bunch of questions about my life, myself and my family. I enjoyed talking with them and I felt good after the meeting.”
After seeing one of his players drafted, former Hornets coach Shane Martin couldn’t stop heaping praise upon Gilbert.
“This is just amazing. Amazing for Justin, his family and for Huntsville,” said Martin, who began coaching Gilbert in the spring of his sophomore year.
“The biggest thing is watching him grow up. He wasn’t one of those rah-rah leaders. He was quiet and led by example. Not a lot of cornerbacks came back after their junior year and I think that was the best thing that could’ve happened for him.
“He stayed hungry and played hard. This is just awesome for him.”
Immediately, Gilbert will be relying on the experience of four-year veteran cornerback Joe Haden.
“They asked me about Joe Haden, too, with him being a top guy,” Gilbert also said of Monday’s meeting with Browns officials. “I told them I expect on learning from him and growing from there. I’m not expecting on doing too much early, just earning the respect from the older guys.”
Gilbert was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award presented to college football’s best defensive back in 2013, as well as a consensus All-American.
Gilbert finished the 2013 season with seven interceptions. He returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns, bringing his career non-offensive touchdown total to eight.
As much of an impact as Gilbert made as a lock-down defender, he made just as much or more of an impact in the kick return game. Gilbert owns the Oklahoma State record and Big 12 record with six career kickoff returns for touchdowns.
He ranks second all-time at OSU with 2,681 kickoff return yards and holds a career return average of 26.28 yards.
Gilbert becomes first Huntsville Hornet selected in first round of NFL Draft
Justin Gilbert’s future will be with the Cleveland Browns.
BEARKAT FOOTBALL— Ready to rumble
At the end of the Sam Houston State football team’s first preseason practice Monday at Bowers Stadium, new head coach K.C. Keeler told his players that they “did O.K.” There were dropped passes, missed assignments and errant throws from starters and backups alike. But there were also incredible displays of athleticism, as well as a sense of urgency from players hoping to win a starting job.
The fate of Sam Houston’s season could rest on the arm of whoever emerges as the team’s starting quarterback. On Monday, sophomore Don King III played with the first team, but sophomore Jared Johnson and redshirt freshman John Roderique each saw a comparable number of reps.
BEARKAT FOOTBALL— Road to redemption
There were no footballs at the Sam Houston State football team’s first day of preseason camp. The team didn’t take the field, and the slew of questions facing the Bearkats this season remained unanswered.
Regardless, after losing by a point to Southeastern Louisiana in last season’s FCS playoffs, senior running back Keshawn Hill seized Sunday’s series of team meetings as an opportunity to begin taking the Bearkats back to national prominence.
BEARKAT FOOTBALL— Small named SHSU football operations coordinator
Jonathan Small has joined the Sam Houston State University athletic staff as football operations coordinator for Bearkat head coach K.C. Keeler’s program.
Small comes to Huntsville after heading up football operations for the Elon University Phoenix since May 2013 and the previous three seasons at The College of William and Mary.
BEARKATS FOOTBALL — Pondering the possibilities For 2014 season
It’s been 232 days since the Sam Houston State football team fell in gut-wrenching fashion to Southeastern Louisiana in last season’s FCS playoffs. Since then, change has been constant.
Willie Fritz is gone and K.C. Keeler is now attempting to lead the Bearkats to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Sam Houston will need to replace 13 starters from last year’s squad, including record-setting running back Timothy Flanders and the program’s all-time winningest quarterback Brian Bell.
Questions to be answered
Uncertainty isn’t always a precursor to unmitigated disaster. The Sam Houston State football team will enter the 2014 season with a new coaching staff, new offensive and defensive schemes and a plethora of new faces competing for starting jobs that were vacated by players who helped lead the program to three consecutive playoff appearances.
The schedule is daunting, but it’s not out of the question for the Bearkats to go undefeated in conference play this fall. The roster is young and relatively inexperienced, but there are talented players on the depth chart who have not yet had an opportunity to showcase their skills. There are plenty of reasons to temper expectations for 2014, but also many reasons to hope the Bearkats can win the games they are supposed to win and find their way to the playoffs again.
Rodeo: Brazile looking for another championship
Trevor Brazile is attempting to earn a record 12th world all-around title on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit.
In the Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings, he currently is ranked No. 1 in the all-around race with regular-season earnings of $149,420, $46,345 ahead of his brother-in-law, Tuf Cooper.
Brazile and Cooper are traveling partners. They hit the road together in late June while competing at the Reno Rodeo in Nevada, the PRCA’s first major summer event.
Justin Gilbert signs with Browns
A few days before of the start of training camp, former Huntsville Hornet Justin Gilbert officially became a member of the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday when he signed his first NFL contract.
Now that he’s got his contract with the Browns, he needs a starting job.
Another record for Derrick Ross
In his short career in the Arena Football League, Huntsville’s Derrick Ross has left his mark.
Playing in his fourth season in the league and his third with the Philadelphia Soul, Ross notched another record.
Along with being the all-time leading rusher, a mark he sat last year, Ross now also owns the record for most career rushing touchdowns after scoring three TDs on June 7.
BEARKATS FOOTBALL — Kats have something to prove
Bearkats running back Keshawn Hill has already won two Southland Conference championships, played in as many national championship games and made the playoffs in each of his three seasons at Sam Houston State.
The team is still four days away from its first practice of 2014, but the Bearkats senior running back already has a chip on his shoulder. Despite the program’s recent success, Sam Houston State was picked to finish third in the Southland.
Southland coaches have different takes on accepting transfer players
Show Southeastern Louisiana head coach Ron Roberts the past and he says he’ll show you the future.
Before Roberts took the reins at Southeastern, the program had only managed one winning season since it was restarted in 2003 after a 17-year hiatus. In just his second season at the helm, Roberts brought the Lions into the national spotlight by leading his team to an undefeated Southland Conference record and a playoff victory over Sam Houston State, a national runner-up the previous two seasons. The Lions finished the season ranked sixth in both The Sports Network and FCS Coaches final polls.
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