A few months ago, undrafted rookie Xavier Gipson was not sure if he was going to make the New York Jets final roster, as he was far from guaranteed a spot. Fast forward to Monday night and Gipson is the hero in New York thanks to a walk-off punt return to defeat AFC East rival Buffalo Bills in overtime.
After the game, Gipson spoke about the 22-16 win and how he felt as he ran down the field, taking it to the house in such a big moment.
“It felt like I was dreaming,” Gipson said, via NFL.com.
Jets fans likely thought they were dreaming too. After future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with an injury and was ruled out for the game, and, their chances of defeating the defending divisional champs seemed slim.
It took a lot of help from the defense, which forced three interceptions and a fumble, and an unforgettable play from someone who has been fighting for his spot since training camp.
Following the preseason, Gipson met with general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh to find out his fate for the 2023 season, as captured on HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks.’ When asked how he felt the preseason went, the wide receiver responded by saying it was “pretty good” and admitting he was nervous to find out if he made the 53-man roster.
This man just scored the game-winner for the Jets in Week 1
Xavier Gipson pic.twitter.com/6VFgmUv3zd
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris)
“Well look man, you know the odds are stacked against you from the jump, man,” Douglas said to Gipson, not giving any clues which way they were leaning. “You did a lot of good things this camp. We appreciate your hard work. Just want to let you know man, you’re a New York Jet … Welcome to the team brother.”
Laughing and falling over into the couch in relief, Gipson replied, “Why did you scare me like that.”
Saleh had high hopes for Gipson this season and believed the rookie would work hard to make an impact on the team.
“You’re going to do a lot of good things for us this year, you got something to you,” Saleh said to Gipson. “The way you approach the game with your intent, your mindset and all that stuff, there’s no doubt in our mind that you’re going to maximize who you are. You’re definitely one of us.”
It did not take long for Gipson to do “good things” for the Jets and Saleh can now backup his instincts with a highlight. While the NFL world may have been shocked to see how the game ended, the head coach had a feeling something big was coming for Gipson in Week 1.
“I’m going to speak for our entire locker room and say we knew he was gonna get one today,” the Saleh said after the game. “We just had a feeling. That kid is electric with the ball in his hands. If I’m a team, I’m not kicking to him. But let him keep proving it. I think none of us in the locker room are surprised that he took one.”
It has not been an easy ride for the 22-year-old, calling the brief time he has spent in the NFL a “roller coaster” so far.
“Not knowing knowing if I’m good enough, truth be told,” he said. “Just letting my work show, day in, day out. Show them how bad I want to be here. Show them how bad I want to be a legend and be great. It’s been like a roller coaster, man, for real.”
The Jets coaching staff putting their trust in Gipson for a big moment is not something the wide receiver takes lightly.
“It was meaningful,” Gipson said on being put on the field for that play. “Knowing how hard I worked. Knowing my position. How fast it could’ve ended. Coach Saleh, I thank them guys for believing in me and giving me an opportunity to show what I can do.”
This content was originally published here.