From the moment he was introduced to the sport, football consumed Xavier Gipson‘s life.
“I got introduced to football when I was seven, I started playing football, and after that, it just took off,” Gipson said. “My pops introduced me. I moved with my pops for some discipline. He loves football. Everyone on that side of the family played football. He just threw me in, my first time, and I scored.”
Gipson grew up in Dallas with his father, who taught him important lessons as he grew up. Gipson’s father was hardest on Xavier because from an early age he knew his son was something special.
“It had his areas, some places a little bit rougher than others, but with him, he disciplined me in a good way,” Xavier said. “You find out really quickly who you want to hang around, what route they’re going, and you bump your head a little bit a couple of times. He was harder on me than all my other brothers and sisters, he told me he saw something in me. You have to pay attention, have to know what you want, and you have to stick with it.”
Sticking with it is exactly what Gipson did with his football career. In high school, Gipson was a diminutive 5-3 when he tried out for the Woodrow Wilson High School team in Dallas. He worked relentlessly until his coaches finally took notice.
“Out of all my friends, I was always the smallest one,” Gipson said. “I finally grew a little bit and got to like 5-6 and 140 pounds. The coaches moved me to varsity my freshman year just because I had a heart. I had the heart of a lion. They called me ‘Mighty Mouse’ and after that I just carried a chip on my shoulder.”
Gipson never let anything slow him down. He was motivated and landed a scholarship to Stephen F. Austin.
“There’s a lot of kids that were too small and didn’t get a chance,” he said. “They stopped believing because someone else didn’t believe in them. You have to believe in yourself. I believed in myself. I believed in my talent. I believed in my craft and how hard I work. Size shouldn’t matter. If you have willpower, your mind, your brain, your heart, you can do whatever you want to do.”
While at Stephen F. Austin, Gipson was selected as an first team FCS All-American, averaged 17.9 yards per play his senior year and ended his career as the receiving yards leader in the NCAA subdivision (4,305 yards) in 44 career games. Even after such a successful collegiate career, Gipson was not selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.
“I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to get drafted,” Gipson said. “It was a talented draft class, so I had the feeling I might go undrafted. Especially where I come from, the competition, you know what they say. I just tried to remain focused. When I got my shot, I was like you got a shot, now what are you going to do with it?”
Gipson got his shot when he made the Jets’ 53-man roster in August. He proved that he deserved his shot in Week 1 when he returned a punt for a game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Buffalo Bills. Gipson’s 65-yard return earned him the Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Week.
“I caught a lot of punt returns during training camp, minicamp, rookie minicamp, and this summer,” he said. “The same way [the return] happened, I repped that this summer, over and over, and different sides. It’s crazy how it just happened. I didn’t do it by myself, I had great blocks on the team. But that feeling was crazy.”
At the start of his rookie season, Gipson is holding himself to a high standard.
“I got very high expectations, especially being doubted a lot,” he said. “I’ve been doubted my whole life pretty much, but it’s very high expectation. And I’m willing to work to reach those expectations.
“Staying consistent, staying focused, betting on myself, and believing in myself. A lot of people are not going to believe you, so you have to believe in yourself to get where you want to be.”
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