TAMPA – Despite a position change and only one full season on varsity, Braden Gilby has become a standout player at Jesuit.
The rising junior is set to start his second year at linebacker for the Tigers. Gilby, a 6’2″, 235-pounder played his sophomore season at 215 lbs. and expects to be around 225 when August rolls around.
Starting his football life at age 12 after playing both soccer and baseball growing up, Gilby looked to follow his father, a walk-on at Texas A&M. Gilby wanted to play football when he was younger, but his parents wanted him to wait and grow before he put the pads on.
He played linebacker and running back at Shorecrest Prep before transferring to Jesuit for high school. After spending most of his freshman year as a running back on JV, he earned the promotion in the playoffs contributing on special teams and helping out on the scout team.
Gilby led the Tigers in tackles last season with 128 while also recording 14 tackles for a loss), eight sacks, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles. He called playing linebacker “a different speed.”
“I feel like I fit in our defense with my size and weight,” Gilby told Prep Sports Scouting. “I’m used to hitting people on offense and it took a little used to tackling.”
He played middle linebacker last season at the Mike and will move to outside linebacker at the Sam position this year.
When Gilby arrived at Jesuit in 2014 he knew him and the highly recruited Malik Davis were two different type of running backs. However, he was up for the competition initially.
“I was open to compete with him, but coach thought I’d have a better chance of competing on the other side of the ball. I didn’t care as long as I was on the field helping out.”
Stopping Davis in practices is something Gilby thoroughly enjoys.
“In practice, it is really great because we push each other. He’s such a great athlete everyday he has a new move that beats everyone. You just have to conform to it. It’s nice to have him on the other side of the ball.”
Gilby responded “of course I do” when I asked him if he ever tries to convince the coaches to let him in at running back on goaline packages.
“I always get the same answer which is maybe we’ll get a package.”
He says he gained full confidence in the second or third game of last season.
“That’s when I really figured out what was going on. I figured out my stance, I could read the guards really well.”
Last year’s undefeated season ended at home in the Class 5A state semifinals to eventual champion Orlando Bishop Moore. Jesuit finished 13-1 and Gilby says the loss left a sour taste in his mouth. He’s looking for revenge this year but says the Tigers’ chemistry was impressive this past season.
“I just loved it because the feeling that we were all together. At the end of the year, the team had never been this close before. We could almost read each other’s minds in the game, it was crazy. I’m looking forward to starting out this year and I have that under my belt.”
Gilby calls playing under head coach like Matt Thompson something truly great. Thompson has guided Jesuit to three straight district titles.
“It’s hard because I didn’t have that good of coaches and then I came to Jesuit and he had everything set up. He had it locked down. He knows what is going and he’s been doing it for a while. He’s a great coach.”
Gilby calls playing home games on Friday nights at Jesuit electrifying.
“Having a show out of a game with that many students coming out for Blue Tide. It’s great. It fuels the defense almost especially in the big moments.”
As for his biggest strengths, Gilby pointed to his ability to read and get to the ball. He wants to improve his pass drop and 40-yard dash time.
He hasn’t earned that first offer yet, but four schools are showing interest in him including Clemson, Florida State, Oklahoma and North Carolina State.
He has taken unofficial visits to Clemson, Oklahoma, Florida State already. He said he loved how Clemson is set up around family and he was thoroughly impressed by the facilities and players at FSU during his trip on Friday.
Gilby’s biggest role model is Carolina Panthers star middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.
“I look up to him [Kuechly] and his decision making. He’s done such a great job with the Panthers. I just love watching him play.”
His ultimate goal is to play college football and eventually get an opportunity to play in the NFL. He plans to study either business or finance in college.
“We’ll see when the time comes, the game ends at one point, so you have to learn how to deal with that.”
Gilby has adjusted well to a big-time program that is Jesuit. He’s taken over as the hammer of this defense and it’s paying dividends for both him and the team.
Entering only his junior season, it is scary to think how much better Braden Gilby can be. He’ll be getting offers very soon and if he does it all, don’t be shocked to see this defense be even better than a year ago.
Favorite players to watch – Luke Kuechly, Johnny Manziel (when in college), Adrian Peterson
Favorite movie – Jurassic Park
Fun fact about you that no one knows – “I really like to fish. It’s a really fun hobby. My dad has taken me out fishing since I was little and I just picked up on it. A 200-pound goliath grouper is the biggest one I’ve caught.”
Game film: Gilby’s Hudl tape
Photo credit: Tampa Bay Times
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Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
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