Former Glades Central football star Dominique Gibson kept his promise to his mother by earning scholarship to Wake Forest
Friday, July 06, 2012
by Matt Porter
When Dominique Gibson was in eighth grade, he attended the February signing day ceremony at Glades Central High, seeing players he watched on Fridays symbolically join teams he watched on Saturdays.
As soon as he returned home, he declared, "Mom, I'm gonna sign on signing day, and you're gonna be there."
"OK, baby," his mother told him.
In February, Gibson accepted a Wake Forest scholarship, but his mother wasn't there to celebrate. Today she'll be in his heart, when he leaves Belle Glade to drive to Winston-Salem, N.C., and start a college football career.
"It's something I've been waiting on since my freshman year," said Gibson, recruited as a 5-foot-10, 195-pound strong safety. "I know she's proud of me."
In the weeks before her eighth-grade son made that promise, Cassandra Gibson's kidneys were failing. She went to afternoon dialysis three days a week. She would return home weak, her system rocked by the treatment, but she continued to fight.
Four years ago, on July 6, 2008, Cassandra died of kidney failure. She was 34.
Her son broke down, but with help from his father, Frank Williams, his grandmother, Wanda Williams, and other family members, he got up. He missed three days of football practice.
"She wouldn't have wanted me to stay out," Gibson said on Friday. "She would have wanted me to continue."
He became a star running back and linebacker at Glades Central, following his uncle, Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Gibson made his own mark in one of the most storied high school football programs in Florida. In his four years, the Raiders lost one game at home, and five games in total.
He was a two-time first-team Post All-Area team member. As a senior, he was a Palm Beach Post Super 11 selection.
Gibson was a fun-loving presence at practice, but loss was always his motivation.
Sam King, a longtime assistant coach at Glades Central, would drive him home from practice. Every day, he said, they'd stop and get a chicken sandwich. "Every day, he'd tell me how much he wished his mother was here," King said.
He'll wear No. 22 at Wake Forest, but he wore No. 5 during high school. That's in memory of his brother, Derrick Clock, who died in a car accident five months before his mother's death. Clock was 18. Gibson remembered himself as a fourth-grade "nerd" on the math team before Clock taught him football.
Gibson has 32 tattoos, none of which are visible when he's wearing short sleeves. On the top of his left shoulder, he has a stone with flowers around it. "In memory of Cassandra Gibson," it reads.
Not all Gibson's tributes are heavy-hearted. Before the signing day ceremony, he tried to dye his hair Wake Forest gold but ended up wearing a shade of orange that had teammates calling him "fire-head."
"He's a great kid," King said. "He's going to make the town proud."
He did Feb. 1, when he stepped to the podium in a crowded gymnasium in Belle Glade.
In front of family and friends at that signing day ceremony for eight Glades Central football players, Gibson talked about how important that day was to him.
He cleared his throat. After his brief comments, there were more than a few tears in the audience.
"I think I handled it pretty well," he recalled. "If I did cry, I didn't show it."