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Football

A Woodrow Alum Made the Most Exciting Play of NFL Opening Weekend

Meet Xavier Gipson, who had quite the journey (and resume) prior to his stunning walk-off punt return on Monday Night Football.
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At least Jets fans had something to smile about Monday night. Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest story of Week 1 is unquestionably Aaron Rodgers tearing his Achilles four plays into his first game with the New York Jets, a development that definitely ends his season and, at age 39, perhaps his career, too.

Turns out the most fun development took place in the same game.

That’s 22-year-old Xavier Gipson, the pride of Stephen F. Austin University and, more important for our purposes, Woodrow Wilson High School. You probably haven’t heard of him, which means there’s two ways I can inform you about his journey.

There’s the short, rather profane, video version courtesy of Jets All-Pro defensive lineman Quinnen Williams:

And there’s the slightly longer explanation. In addition to his prowess on returns, Gipson is a wide receiver by trade, and a damn good one at that. He was a two-time WAC Offensive Player of the Year while at SFA. That’s especially impressive because Gipson had never played receiver prior to his senior year at Woodrow. He was a cornerback, good enough at one point be verbally committed to SMU. Instead, Gipson wound up at the FCS level, whereupon he flipped to offense full-time and became a holy terror.

That wasn’t enough to get him picked in April’s NFL Draft—being listed at 5 foot 9 and 189 pounds probably had a thing or three to do with that. It did, however, make for good television fodder on this year’s Hard Knocks.

So now you—and the NFL—know what Woodrow was well aware of: Xavier Gipson does nasty stuff with the ball in his hands. And he isn’t too busy to visit his alma mater from time to time, either.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Stephen F. Austin University.

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Mike Piellucci

Mike Piellucci

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Mike Piellucci is D Magazine's sports editor. He is a former staffer at The Athletic and VICE, and his freelance…

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