He may be known as a Detroit Tigers baseball player, but the one-and-only Kirk Gibson received honors for his football playing abilities.
Gibson, the former Detroit Tigers outfielder who is best known for hitting two of the most iconic World Series home runs in the history of baseball, was awarded a life-long spot in the College Football Hall of Fame yesterday.
For those who only know Gibson has a baseball player, he actually played football at Big Ten powerhouse Michigan State University.
Gibson’s road from football to baseball is now the stuff of legends. He was a football player who was recruited to play in East Lansing in 1975. Throughout his time at MSU, Gibson dominated the gridiron and was predicted to be a first-round NFL draft pick in 1979.
Records as a College Football Player
He was a wide receiver who helped bring the Spartans to a shared Big Ten Championship (with the University of Michigan) in 1978 and finishing 12th in the national standings. Gibson was named an All-American and he earned all-conference recognition, too. In 1976, he set his first school record. But in 1978, he broke it, catching 42 passes earning the Spartans 806 yards and 7 touchdowns. He still holds a Spartan record: 21.0 yards-per-catch, but that number is #2 in the Big Ten and #12 in the NCAA. Only two other players at MSU have scored more touchdowns and three have more receiving yards.
His road from record-setting football player to iconic baseball player was based on money. Gibson played baseball while in high school at Waterford Kettering and in 1978, the Spartan coach asked him to join the team. Gibson decided to do it get whatever NFL team planned to draft him would want to give him more money. It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
One Outstanding Athlete: Baseball Numbers
As a junior at MSU, Gibson hit .390 with 16 home runs, 52 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases. He was named a first-team All-American. In 1978, the Tigers took notice and drafted him. But, the Tigers allowed him to finish his final year of college football.
Gibson spent the majority of his baseball career with the Tigers, with a few years in between playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Kansas City Royals, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. He won the NL MVP in 1988 while he was with the Dodgers and he won the 1984 ALCS MVP while with the Tigers. In 2011, he was named the NL Manager of the Year with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
It is clear that Gibson was an exceptional athlete and his College Football Hall of Fame election is well deserved. Now, nearly 40 years since his last football game in East Lansing, Gibson’s numbers still hold up. His career numbers are still impressive. MSU will honor Gibson by placing his football number 23 in their Ring of Fame at Spartan Stadium. Gibson’s baseball number 30 is retired and honored at the Drayton McLane Baseball Stadium.
Unfortunately for Gibson, he will not be immortalized in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Despite, his home runs and numerous hits, he just doesn’t have the total numbers to make it into Cooperstown. Regardless, Gibson will always be a favorite son in Detroit, East Lansing, and all of Michigan.