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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

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Larry Gibbs (No. 93) Larry Gibbs (No. 93)

Alumnus Lives the Dream as Student-Athlete and Nike Manager

Former Aztecs lineman Larry Gibbs takes the sports company’s “Just Do It” mantra to heart.
By Suzanne Finch

“Once I tried out, they called me a few days later and said I made the team. It was a dream come true.”

All Larry Gibbs wanted to do when he graduated from high school in 2007 was to play college football. As a starting linebacker for Ramona High School in Riverside, California, Gibbs was responsible for 111 total tackles as a senior and thought he would have a great shot at joining a Division I team as a walk-on. 

He had been accepted to attend Colombia University, the University of California Berkeley and his dream school, the University of California Los Angeles. 

He had also been accepted to San Diego State University and after a visit to the campus during January of his senior year, he made SDSU his school of choice. “Even though it was pouring rain, I fell in love with the campus and the city,” said Gibbs. “I had a couple of other options for school, but honestly, the deciding factor that led me to choose SDSU over the other schools was SDSU had a sponsorship deal with Nike.” 

The deal was important to Gibbs. While it’s the dream of every college football player to join the NFL, it’s always a good idea to have a back-up plan and for Gibbs, that was a career with Nike. He wanted to work for “the best” and to Gibbs, that meant Nike.  

Gibbs entered SDSU as a kinesiology major but joined the Fowler College of Business as a management major after his freshman year. “I realized how a business degree would allow me to have the best opportunity to have a successful career after football,” he said. “Management was the route that I took because I felt it would give me the most well-rounded business education.” 

Pursuing a career in management ended up being the right move, since Gibbs’ plans to join the Aztecs on the gridiron was initially not going as planned: He was not invited to try out for the team during his freshman or sophomore year. He was frustrated, but even more determined.

During 2009, Gibbs’ dream of playing football for the Aztecs was still alive and he continued to check in with the athletics staff and kept up his workout regimen “because I wanted to stay ready in case the team gave me a call.” His determination and resolve paid off when Brady Hoke, then the Aztecs’ newly hired head coach, made the call that Gibbs had been waiting for. “Once I tried out, they called me a few days later and said I made the team,” he said. “It was a dream come true.”

With Gibbs on board as a defensive lineman, the Aztecs football program finished the 2009 season with a 4-8 record, an improvement over the previous year’s record of 2-10. Gibbs made the team again in 2010 and the Aztecs went 9–4, capping off the season with a win in the Poinsettia Bowl against Navy. This marked the first Aztec bowl victory since 1969 and since then, the Aztecs have never suffered a losing season.

In 2011, his third and final season with the Aztecs, Gibbs became a starter and earned a scholarship. The team finished the regular season with an 8–4 record and Gibbs graduated with his degree in management immediately after the season ended in December. And while a career in the NFL was not in his future, his dream career at Nike was. 

Gibbs started at Nike in June 2012 as a retail sales associate (called an “athlete” in Nike corporate lingo) at the Nike Factory Store in San Ysidro. He worked his way through the corporate ladder until he became a manager (“coach”) at a store in Portland, Oregon. In March 2021, his goal was realized when he was promoted to a front of house specialist at Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. “My job entails being the point person for all things supplies and technology for our U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico stores,” he said. “Essentially, I ensure that our retail stores have the supplies and infrastructure they need to be successful.” 

While Gibbs’ SDSU management degree helped him get his foot in the door at Nike, he said it’s the people he works with that keeps him there. “I joined Nike because I was excited for the opportunity to work for the best, but as the years have gone by, I can’t stress enough how people-oriented this company is and how many lifelong friends I have made with the people I work with,” he said. “I’m extremely thankful every single day for the relationships and opportunities this company has provided for me.” 

For those SDSU business students who are interested in working for Nike, Gibbs offers this advice: “Don’t be afraid to start from the beginning, whether that’s an athlete (store associate), a custodian, or somebody that works at one of the front desks in the corporate offices. Be humble, be authentic, and be relentless, and you’ll be able to accomplish your dream, whether that’s at Nike or elsewhere.”