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Brand new Blue Hawk: Dickinson State signs Bismarck High standout quarterback Gibson

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Bismarck High senior quarterback Hayden Gibson throws a pass against Dickinson High during a West Region game on Sept. 12 at the Biesiot Activities Center.

Bismarck High senior standout Hayden Gibson had to make a decision between playing football at Dickinson State or University of Mary.

Ultimately, Gibson choose the Blue Hawks.

Gibson, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback, signed his letter of intent on Wednesday to play football for DSU in the fall.

“DSU is going in the right direction right now and that’s what sparked my interest,” Gibson said. “I like the coaches and guys at DSU. The facilities and everything about it felt right.

“It was big relief (when I made my decision).”

DSU head coach Pete Stanton said he’s excited to bring in one of the top high school quarterbacks from North Dakota. Gibson was a two-time Class 3A all-state and two-time all-West Region selection, and was named West Region senior athlete of the year last season.

“There’s a couple things that stand out with him — that he’s a tremendous leader, he throws the ball really well and he’s an accurate thrower,” Stanton said. “He’s a guy that’s really driven to make himself better. He’s one of those that competes and he wins.”

Despite finishing his high school career with a 20-2 record, Gibson wished it could have ended differently. The two losses on his record came at the most inopportune time — the 2013 Class 3A state championship game against Fargo South and a Class 3A state semifinals game against Minot High in 2014.

Gibson finished his senior season with 1,207 yards, 20 touchdowns and three interceptions.

“It definitely could have went better,” Gibson said. “Looking at the record, it wasn’t bad. But the two games that I lost weren’t the best games to lose. I loved the guys and coaches here. I’m never going to forget Friday nights with those guys, but I definitely wished we would have went out on a different note.”

Mark Gibson, Bismarck head coach and Hayden’s father, said his son isn’t focused on individual goals. Hayden has a team-first mentality, he said.

“Hayden doesn’t care about his stats,” Mark Gibson said. “He’s focused on wins and loses. He’s a very team-oriented kid.”

The Gibson family aren’t strangers to DSU.

Hayden’s parents — Mark and Lori — both attended DSU and played sports. His father was a tight end on the football team for four years in 1980s. His mother competed for the cross country and track and field teams.

However, Hayden said his parents didn’t push him to pick one school over another.

“Either U-Mary or DSU, they definitely supported me,” Hayden said. “They are going to be behind me no matter what and I appreciate their support.”

The Bismarck High quarterback had more than just DSU and U-Mary seeking his talents. He was also in talks with the University of North Dakota, Bemidji State (Minn.) and Northern State (S.D.).

It also doesn’t hurt to be reunited with former Bismarck High teammates. The Blue Hawks signed Tommy Sease and Jay Liggins of Bismarck High last season.

Sease, a 6-3, 200-pound linebacker, started 10 games and finished with 61 tackles —29 solo —and six sacks. Liggins, a 6-1 defensive back, redshirted.

“I know Tommy was texting me probably two or three times a week and we are really good friends,” Gibson said. “Jay and I are really good friends, too. Being back and playing with those guys is going to be great.”

Stanton said assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Jace Schillinger has done a great job of recruiting players from the Bismarck area.

“(Schillinger) has been tremendous in establishing a strong rapport with the Bismarck players in the last couple of years,” Stanton said.

Gibson is the third North Dakota high school athlete to sign with DSU this offseason. The previous two were Killdeer standouts Lewis Dobitz and Trenton Rohr. Like Dobitz and Rohr, Stanton said Gibson will have an opportunity to play as a true freshman.

“We are going to evaluate that like we are every position,” Stanton said about Gibson redshirting. “We are certainly going to give him the opportunity to compete at the position. He’ll probably come over in the summer and learn some of the offense, throw and interact with our guys. We’ll make more of a determination throughout the summer and fall.”

Though Gibson would relish the idea of receiving playing time as a true freshman, he wants to build a relationship with the team first.

Gibson knows it isn’t going to be easy to find snaps as DSU returns Kaler Ray —a two-year starter who finished last season with 1,277 passing yards and 11 touchdowns, and also rushed for 591 yards and six touchdowns.

“I know it’s not going to be easy,” Gibson said. “There’s going to be good competition, but I believe we have to become teammates first and then compete for the job. (Ray) did a heck of a job last year.”