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.
Future Hornets take the field
Never before has there been Stars of Huntsville Softball Camp, and it’s not every day that Huntsville’s youth softball players have an opportunity to learn the game’s fundamentals from the town’s most experienced players and coaches.
On Monday, nearly 25 campers took the field at Kate Barr Ross Park and were instructed by Huntsville Hornets softball head coach Rick Burns and several members of his team. The players, coaches and campers battled through the heat to have a successful day that saw many of the campers receive one-one-one instruction.
SHSU’s Ridings honored by Southland Conference
Longtime Sam Houston State sports information director Paul Ridings has been named the 2014 recipient of the Southland Conference’s Louis Bonnette Sports Media Award.
The honor will be presented during the Southland’s Football Media Day luncheon July 23 at L’auberge Resort in Lake Charles, La.
Huntsville Heat win tourney title
The Huntsville Heat played in Alvin over the weekend in a benefit tournament that drew 52 teams.
The benefit tournament was hosted by the Alvin Girls Softball Association for one of their own Alvin Bayou Babes players, Natalie Mota, who was recently diagnosed with lymphoma.
Ever since he was drafted in the 23rd round in 2010 by the Minnesota Twins, former Trinity Tiger and Sam Houston State Bearkat pitcher Dallas Gallant has been on the road to the majors.
Despite having to undergo two surgeries on his elbow, Gallant continues to do what he needs to in the minor leagues to take the next step in his career.
Running down under
The roads were closed and 3,834 runners were lined up preparing to try and catch Huntsville High School cross-country star Blake Thomason as she ran down the Gold Coast of Australia.
The Huntsville High School sophomore cross-country and track and field star is used to competing against runners from different parts of the country. But this time, Thomason took her talents to the world stage.
BEARKAT BASEBALL — Atwood returning for senior season with Kats
Good news arrived last week for Bearkats baseball and new head coach Matt Deggs.
Center fielder Colt Atwood will be back in uniform for Sam Houston State next spring.
Atwood was selected in the 38th round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft by the Oakland Athletics on June 8.
Huntsville Steppers shine in track meet
Each weekday, the Huntsville Steppers head to practice at Huntsville High School and run through the hot summer heat.
It’s the work they’ve done when the spotlight isn’t on them that helped the team excel July 11 and 12 at Baylor University in Waco in a regional meet to qualify for the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation’s Games of Texas. The Steppers earned 16 medals and qualified 12 runners for the TAAF’s Games of Texas, set for July 31- Aug. 4 at Texas A&M University.
Making dreams come true
Chris Spikes was covered. The Jasper High School wide receiver had a cornerback draped all over him during one-on-one drills at Friday’s Elite Kat Football Camp at Bowers Stadium.
But with one leap, Spikes snatched the ball out of the air and touched his feet in the end zone, causing a stir among the players standing along the sideline. Spikes had no idea that he had also grabbed himself a Division I scholarship offer from Sam Houston State.
RODEO INSIDER: Calgary Stampede shows how it's done
In the world of pro rodeo, the Calgary Stampede provides a great model for other events to follow.It’s the ultimate lucrative, all-star, outdoor summer rodeo. The 2014 edition, which began July 4, and concluded Sunday, featured a field of 20 credentialed riders in each event, including 19-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world champion Trevor Brazile, 2004 Professional Bull Riders world champion Mike Lee and three-time world bareback riding champ Kaycee Feild.
Building for the future
Jordan Kader didn’t do much wrestling toward the end of the first day of the Huntsville Hornets Wrestling Camp on Monday.
As the campers practiced sit-outs and body rolls, Kader, who is a rising senior at Huntsville High School and has twice wrestled in the UIL state tournament, kept a watchful eye over youngsters Isabell Sournell and Taryn Cahill. She patiently instructed the duo of future Hornets, using her three years of experience to guide them through a myriad of drills.
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