Titans NFL Draft UDFA Interview: Minnesota LB Jack Gibbens

The Tennessee Titans signed several undrafted free agents at the conclusion of the 2022 NFL Draft. Former Minnesota linebacker Jack Gibbens is one of those players. Gibbens enjoyed a fruitful collegiate campaign in 2021, having recorded an astounding 92 tackles in his lone season as a Gopher. Gibbens previously played four seasons at Abilene Christian University. Appropriately handling a step up in competition in 2021 undeniably helped Gibbens boost his pre-draft stock.

Gibbens recently spoke exclusively with Broadway Sports about how he formed a relationship with Tennessee throughout the pre-draft process, what he can add to the defense, reflecting on his final college football season, and what his goals and aspirations are ahead of training camp.

JM: Before arriving at Minnesota in 2021, you spent the previous four seasons at Abilene Christian University, where you were a standout defender. Going from Abilene to Minnesota is a huge step up in competition. What were some of the main differences you noticed?

JG: I loved playing at Abilene. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I met a ton of great people. I played some good football down there. I’d say the biggest difference I noticed when I arrived at Minnesota was just the overall depth the bigger schools have. I firmly believe there’s great players all across the FCS as well, but the amount of scholarships larger schools have at their disposal makes a notable difference. The depth is night and day, especially once you start going down the depth chart. The backup players are excellent players, too. That’s something that may be lacking at the FCS programs. That’s the biggest difference.

JM: You had a terrific season at Minnesota, notching 92 total tackles in your lone season as a Gopher. You must have felt a sense of vindication, like yeah, I knew I could play at a higher level.

JG: Yeah, for sure. It’s always been a dream of mine to play at a big-time college football program, and Minnesota gave me that opportunity in 2021. It was an awesome opportunity that allowed me to play on a really good defense. We had several NFL-level defenders that kept us clean at the second level. Guys like Boye Mafe and Esezi Otomewo created a lot of damage up front. They allowed us to go out there and make plays. I had a blast.

JM: You’ve now signed with the Titans as an undrafted free agent. How did the opportunity with the Titans come about?

JG: I didn’t end up getting selected in the 2022 NFL Draft and they called me with an offer. I was excited about the opportunity to come play football in Nashville. The Titans were a team that was definitely at the top of my list throughout this process. I’ve become a fan of their football over the past few seasons. I love the way they play. An opportunity to play for a Head Coach such as Mike Vrabel, we’re talking about a coach that played the position at an extremely high level. I really love the culture and everything they have going for them in Nashville. I’m excited to get up there and hopefully help win them more games.

JM: You mentioned having them near the top of your list. Which members of the Titans were you in contact with throughout the pre-draft process?

JG: It was mostly on the scouting department side. I spoke with their scouts. I had several meetings and interviews. I spoke with their head of player personnel as well, and those types of staff members leading up to the draft. I’ve had more conversations with various members of the coaching staff after signing with them. We’re starting to dive into football stuff. It’s been awesome.

JM: I imagine most of those pre-draft meetings occurred via Zoom?

JG: I actually got to meet them in person at the two all-star games I played in. I played in the Hula Bowl, and at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, too. Their Director of Player Personnel also spoke with me in-person at my Pro Day. It was great to meet with so many of their staff members face-to-face throughout these various events. A lot of the stuff was virtual, but that in-person time was excellent.

JM: You mentioned becoming a fan of their play style, and the various meetings obviously helped, but I want to expand on all that a bit more. I imagine you had other offers. Why did you pick Tennessee?

JG: I love teams that can run the football and stop the run. I feel like that’s what it takes to win games. Tennessee has proven that over the past few years. They’ve done that at such a high level as of late. They’re so tough and physical. It speaks volumes regarding the type of people they have within the organization. It’s an excellent coaching staff that has built a strong culture. I love the physical brand of football they play down here. Coach Vrabel is a former legend at the same position I play. With him being the head coach, that’s something that’s really cool to me. I’m excited to play and learn from him. Those are some of the things that really stood out to me. It for sure helped differentiate them from the other offers I received.

JM: That all makes a ton of sense. How would you describe your skill set as an inside linebacker?

JG: I feel like I’m a really smart football player at the end of the day. I read the game at an extremely high level. That’s what I do best. I have great instincts. I put in the time preparing for my next opponent, especially mentally. I feel like it’s always given me an ability to diagnose plays before they happen. That gives me a head start. I’ve also worked really hard on my block deconstruction abilities, and my skills as a tackler as well. If you can do those things and get yourself into the right spot, you’re headed in the right direction. It’s all about getting off blocks and making tackles. That’s what makes a linebacker an effective defender. Those are the things I work the most on. I’ve made it a strength of my game over the years.

JM: Special teams often represent the quickest path for an undrafted free agent to earn a roster spot, especially at linebacker. How comfortable are you playing special teams? Do you have any previous experience doing so?

JG: That’s something I’m excited to jump back into. It’s a huge part of the game. It represents another opportunity for a young guy to get on the field, make an impact and help the team win. It’s definitely something I’m super excited about. It’s kinda similar in college. You come in as a freshman as a younger guy and you get a chance to play a lot on special teams. I’ve played a bunch of special teams throughout my career, especially when I was younger. I’ve had some good experiences doing it. As I got older, we limited that a little bit more as I played a more prominent role on defense. I remained on at least one phase of special teams the entire time though. I love doing it. I’m excited about the opportunity to make a name for myself.

JM: That makes a ton of sense. I don’t know how well you know the Titans roster, but is there one teammate you’re excited to learn from?

JG: As an outside guy looking in, it’s definitely cool to be on a team with a guy like Derrick Henry. He’s so dominant at his position. I’m excited to compete against him and get a front-row seat to watch how he works every day.

JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, what are your goals and aspirations like over these next few months as you attempt to make Tennessee’s final roster?

JG: I’m excited to get to work. I’m hopeful to put myself in a position to compete. My goal is to make the team and help them win a bunch of games. All I wanna do is get out there, get on the team and make an impact. I aim to get on the field, either on special teams, or at linebacker on defense. I wanna help the team. I’m excited for the opportunity. I’m ready to start working.

Author: Justin MeloSenior Writer, Interviewer and Podcaster for Broadway Sports covering the Tennessee Titans and NFL draft. For more than five years, Justin Melo has professionally covered all things NFL draft and Titans for The Draft Network, SB Nation and USA Today. Best known for his Interview Series with NFL draft prospects, Justin has interviewed more than 500 NFL players. Co-host of the Music City Audible podcast alongside Justin Graver (@titansfilmroom).

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