Blue Hawk grad soars to NFL
Former Dickinson State player and coach lands position with the Minnesota Vikings
MINNEAPOLIS – Many humble starts have the sweetest endings, like when a small-town player from Dickinson State University rises through the ranks to become an NFL coach. The Minnesota Vikings have a new addition to its team, and Dalmin Gibson’s humble beginnings have made for an inspiring journey
After his dreams of becoming a professional football player were cut short due to a severe shoulder injury, his passion for the game never wavered. Instead, the former DSU Blue Hawk forged a new path forward — behind the clipboard as a coach.
In late February, Gibson was hired by the Minnesota Vikings as their new assistant special teams coach, replacing Ben Kotwica who moved on to take the same role with the Denver Broncos. Gibson's coaching experience includes working with NCAA Div. 1-A teams such as Colorado, Michigan State, and Southern Illinois. His successful transition from player to coach is a testament to his perseverance and dedication to the sport.
“It’s really just been a dream-come-true, and I think the NFL is the highest level of ball,” Gibson said. “It wasn’t really on my radar, early – in terms of my goals when I was younger to coach at this level – but, as the landscape in college football has changed the last couple of years it’s something I’m really excited about and looking forward to being able to be a part of.”
The Vikings flew Gibson to Indianapolis to contribute to the NFL Combine, but since then he’s hit the ground running to grow accustomed to the overall quality of the team’s facilities and staff.
“If you judge the Vikings by the Players Association survey that just came out, we’ve got the number-one ranking in, basically: facilities, training staff, strength staff, coaching staff and all of that,” Gibson said of his new organization. “So, it’s been great. I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to take part in an internship with these guys over the summertime, so when I got hired I already knew everybody and knew the head coach and been here at the facility and knew the layout and what the expectations were … it’s been unbelievable.”
Throughout his coaching career, Gibson has held various positions of increasing responsibility. They have led him to his current role with the Vikings. After starting as an intern with Colorado, he quickly rose through the ranks to become a graduate assistant. He then took on the role of special teams analyst with MSU before becoming the special teams coordinator and defensive line coach at SIU.
Although his rise has been quick, Gibson credits his development to the support he received during his time as special teams coach at Dickinson State during the 2014-2016 seasons.
“Dickinson is where my foundation and my roots all started,” Gibson said. “I was given the opportunity to coach by Coach (Arlan) Hofland and Coach (Hank) Biesiot there, and Coach (Pete) Stanton was linebackers coach at the time, so really I didn’t ever anticipate coaching at all.”
While Gibson has left the area for greener – or purple-er pastures – he has maintained strong ties to the place where he met his wife, Sammy (née Gordon). He said he values being able to stay connected to the region, and with his new position, he is only 8.5 hours away from Sammy's family and his own hometown of Buffalo, SD.
“We haven’t been this close to home in a long time, which is good,” Gibson said. “But then, at the same time, my wife is from Dickinson so we only have been able to get back there maybe once a year – if we’re lucky – but it’s a place that’s always going to hold true and stay close to my heart.”
Dickinson State head coach Pete Stanton has had a long-standing relationship with Dalmin Gibson, which dates back to his playing days when Stanton served as an assistant coach under Hank Biesiot. However, after Gibson's injury, Stanton saw potential in him as a coach and brought him on board to work with players in the program, including some of his former teammates.
It didn't take long for Gibson to make an impact, as Stanton was impressed with his coaching abilities, particularly in special teams and with linebackers. For Stanton, seeing Gibson's growth and success as a coach has been immensely gratifying.
“He moved into an assistant-coaching position and then we hired him as an assistant coach and he was with us from the 2014 to 2016 seasons, here,” Stanton said. “Dalmin did a great job when he was here, obviously, he worked very hard at it and had a lot of talent and had a great rapport with our players and it was his goal to be at a high level someday, and at that point is where he started doing some things as kind of an analyst.”
It’s been all smooth-sailing from there, to a degree, but Stanton said Gibson has put his full efforts into the new trajectory … and it’s paid off in a big way for him.
“This summer, he did an internship with the Vikings and obviously that worked out well, they liked what they saw and he was able to get on with them,” Stanton said. “He stepped right into coaching here (at DSU) at his age and made a great transition from being a player to being a coach at a young age and he worked very hard at it.”
He added, “He had a passion and still does, and that’s what has helped him get to where he’s at, and we couldn’t be any happier for him.”
The injury to his shoulder turned out to be a beneficial twist in what otherwise started off in a completely different way, but Gibson has no regrets about anything that has happened over the course of his young coaching career.
“Really, at the end of the day, that was the best thing that could ever happen to me, was those guys extending and awarding me that opportunity to go coach the guys that I’d been playing with for the last three years,” Gibson said. “So, my time there has obviously meant a lot to me.”
Adding, “It was something that I did take seriously, too, and there were a lot of things I had to do because I wanted to make my coaches – Coach B, Coach Hofland and Coach Stanton – proud of me to be able to join the coaching staff … the biggest thing is that you’ve just got to bet on yourself.”
For more information about the Dickinson State University Blue Hawks, please see www.dickinsonstate.edu/, or for more about the Minnesota Vikings, please visit www.vikings.com.