Drew Gibbs Fosters Culture of Success and Tradition at Ramapo High School

Born in Rutherford, New Jersey, Drew Gibbs and his family moved to Midland Park when he was eight years old.  Attending Midland Park High School, “sports was a part of the family,” Gibbs said.  “My Dad was very supportive and coached in all the youth leagues.  I went from one sport to the next, whether it was football, wrestling, basketball and baseball.  As a young person, I loved the change of seasons, when it was baseball you couldn’t wait to get the glove, when it was the middle of the summer and tired of baseball, you started throwing the football around.”

After graduating from high school, Gibbs attended Gettysburg College for two years and completed his final two years at Montclair State.  In 1985 Gibbs got the opportunity to coach at Ridgewood High School.  The following year Gibbs returned to his alma mater, Montclair State, and coached the tight ends on the football team.

“I fell in love with the (coaching) profession at that time, said Gibbs.  Working with Coach Johnson gave me direction in life.  Coach Johnson has always been a tremendous mentor and role model for me.  If you don’t have a great organized structure in a great program and take the leader out not a lot of good things are going to happen.”

In 1987 Gibbs returned to the coaching circuit at Kean University as the offensive coordinator and then in 1989 became the youngest head coach in NCAA Football at the age of 27.  “I was the interim head coach for a year and didn’t know what I don’t know and certainly learned a lot along the way,” Gibbs said.  Making the decision to return back to Ridgewood High School as the offensive coordinator that lasted for a decade.  In 2001 Gibbs was named the new head coach at Ramapo High School.

“I took over the program in 2001 after Coach (Mike) Miello had led Ramapo to a state championship season.  My first regular season game on a Saturday afternoon after 9/11 against Pascack Valley High School, Ryan Pisarri returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and began my first undefeated season and went 12-0.”

In the 19 years Gibbs has been the Ramapo High School Football Head Coach the Raiders have won seven state championships, four North 1, Group 3 league titles, back-to-back undefeated 13-0 seasons in 2018 and 2019, including sectional and bowl championships and 26-game undefeated streak.  Named the 2019 NJ.com Football Coach of the Year, Gibbs has totaled 167 wins at Ramapo while named North 1, Section 1 Coach of the Year by the NJFCA in 2001 and 2009 and elected as a member of the New Jersey Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014.

“The Football Coaches Association award meant a lot and when your peers recognize the job you did and something that makes me proud and satisfaction you are doing and accomplishing the goals you set out to accomplish is very rewarding,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs credits the hard work of the teachers at Ramapo, athletic director, Ron Anello, facilities, Ramapo Boosters Association and youth programs.

“Ramapo High School is a highly competitive academic school and always amazed at what our teachers do in the classroom and quality of our academic programs,” said Gibbs.  “Our kids go to some of the best colleges in the country and when they come back and say it’s hard and have to put in a lot of hard work in but say I was more prepared than many of my teammates and that’s probably the number one thing I hear.  A credit to our teachers and kids in the classroom and able to balance out the athletic and academic commitment.”

“For a student-athlete to come to Ramapo to play football is a no brainer for our guys.  Fortunately, we have a lot of guys who stay home and made the decision to be in our program.  It breeds success and the more success we have people realize what a good opportunity they have at home.”

“Ron Anello is the athletic director of all our athletic programs here and highly successful.  Ron does a tremendous job of balancing everyone’s needs here and meeting the needs from an athletic standpoint.  It’s one thing to be an athletic director for one team with a high profile, but Ron is juggling a dozen high profile programs here at Ramapo.”

“As a football coach and Ron being a former football coach at a championship level is a huge benefit to me and I can go into his office anytime and bounce stuff off him and talk about things.  The great thing he has never told me what to do but always here to offer his opinion when I ask for it and a great sounding board for me and a great supporter of the program.”

“A very special place, we think back to all the great games that have happened in the past and had tremendous upgrades in the facilities the last few years.  A new turf and bleachers, that path down the field has been walked by many teams throughout the years and special thing.  We’re very fortunate to get the student support during this run and community is so behind this team.”

“You see so many of the same faces come out year after year to support the team.  When the team comes down the hill, a lot of the alumni bring their children and we have a bunch of 5, 6, 7 and 8 year old boys giving the kids high fives as they head on to the field and get our former players to come back and be on the sidelines.”

“All our parents buy into the boosters club and one of the neat things about Ramapo is the programs support one another.  Football supports the soccer program as well as soccer supporting football and basketball.  We used to have a slogan around here, 26 sports but one team and that’s a big part of our success that everyone in the athletic program pulls for one another.  The game at Met Life Stadium and you looked up at the stands we had twice as many as people as the other side.”

“Our youth programs do an outstanding job.  We have a philosophy with the youth programs.  My message is to help the kids love the game and most important thing they understand a football player take a great commitment and if you can teach him to block and tackle that’s a bonus.  Creating a love of football and to me as high school coach most important maintaining a relationship between the junior program and high school.”

“One advantage we have in our community is our kids grow up dreaming of a chance to play on that football field and wear that R on their helmet on a Friday night and not here because they are getting a college scholarship and for any other reason than to represent themselves and take that field in front of family, friends and school.”

To maintain that high level of consistency and championship culture starts right at the beginning of every year for Gibbs and his coaching staff and get the players in top conditioning and playing shape for the upcoming season.

“Myself and Nick Guttuso, the strength conditioning coach, we work the weight room from January until the season starts and that is where the really the foundation is laid through our strength training program and we’re big on keeping the team together,” said Gibbs.  “Supplemented by a gentleman, Brandon Wood, he works with the Parisi Speed School  and comes in and does our speed training with our guys and totally locked into our philosophy.”

“Really from January until June is all about getting our kids into the best athletic condition we can and once the rules permit, we begin the process of getting on the football field with our kids.  Four days a week, two days on the football field with speed conditioning and strength training from June until official practice begins.  We do take an 11-day dead period during the middle of the summer and give our kids a chance to get away and go on vacation but it’s a pretty rigorous schedule.”

For Gibbs the best part of the job is working alongside with his son, Brian Gibbs, who is the Quarterbacks/Safeties coach and support from his family.  “He has been around football fields ever since he could walk.  Some of my first memories are my coaching days at Ridgewood High School and he and Coach Johnson’s son could be seen on film playing their own football game and tackle football on the sidelines.  It’s been awesome to share this ride with him.  He does a tremendous job and has been around so long.  When I got the job, he was about 10 years old, the program is in his heart, he went to school here and so connected.”

“To have the support of my family, my wife Sharon and daughter Caroline at the games is a big thing and they have made the sacrifices that I do what I need to do here.  What I love about our coaching staff is having their families around and on the varsity staff four of the five guys played here and makes it special.”

Even with Ramapo holding the longest winning streak in the State of New Jersey that is the last topic Gibbs is concerned about heading into the 2020 season.  Calling the 2019 playoff run the most challenging and difficult he has been part of with the team being tested every week.  Furthermore, Gibbs realizes the fact in the years the team has not won a state championship.

“I don’t give a great halftime speech but I do talk to the kids every week when two good teams play against each other the game is going to be won in the last two minutes and you are going to have to step up and make a play whether it’s on offense, defense and special teams and make those plays in crucial moments.  So be confident and trust yourself and teammates.”

“There are long seasons when you lose the last one, a tough feeling and examine about the last ball game and sticks with you all season.  What you could have done differently and you could have done to prepare your players and strategic moves you need to makes for a long challenging off-season but also gets your fired up for the next year.  Fortunately, we have had good feelings the last few years.”

“The winning streak you try to put aside, that’s what you work on all the time is not worrying about it and every year is a new year.  The streak is something I can’t worry about and whenever it does creep up to put it aside to keep it going and totally focused on the next game and minute we start worrying about the streak and not our next opponent is the time it ends.”

With official workouts starting recently because the team playing late, Gibbs says he does miss being around the players and practice field especially during the month of December, since him and the players are together and saw each other every day for four to five months especially the seniors.  Now with January upon us, Gibbs is excited about getting back into the weight room and getting started on next year.

“Very satisfying to see the fruits of your labor come to fruition and be re-enforced with the things we are asking our kids to do and concepts we preach to our kids about team and when they follow that road map good things can happen.  The values we are hanging our hat on our program are the right ones and it’s one thing to say Next Man Up but in order for the next guy to be ready you have to give them the reps in practice.”

“The one thing I’m very proud in our program we try to develop every player and the fact that our second-string players get the same amount of reps in practice every week that our starters get enables us when we call that Next man Up.  When guys are called upon they have the tools to step up and from an emotional standpoint, we have given them that confidence to succeed in those situations because it would be on me to out a second-string kid out there and we didn’t prepare him well enough and wasn’t able to get the job done and that’s my fault.”

“We have been blessed to have a number of skilled players to come through our program year after year.  Satisfied our system works and allows players to step in and play at a high level.  The things you can control are your attitude, effort every day and that’s our focus on the kids.”