GODFREY — Ricco Gipson is a man of few words. He's more of a man of action.
It was his action that paid off on Tuesday at Alton High School as the talented senior football player signed a letter of intent to play football at McKendree University in Lebanon.
“All he says is on Friday night,” Alton athletics director Jeff Alderman said. Alderman coached Gipson for three seasons before stepping down as football coach following the 2014 season.
A linebacker for the Redbirds who recorded a total of 105 tackles, 83 solo and 22 assists, will join fellow Alton gridder Josh Lovings who inked a deal with the Bearcats last week.
This has been a longtime goal for the 6-foot, 250-pound Gipson.
“This is a dream to play at the next level,” Gipson said. “Not everybody gets this opportunity to play at the next level.”
And having a fellow three-year starter at AHS along for the ride with him makes it that much sweeter. Lovings plans to play safety for the Division II Wildcats.
“It's a great opportunity to go and play with a teammate and that you grew up playing with,” Gipson said. “It's a great opportunity for me.”
Alderman thinks Gipson will excel at the next level. In his eyes he's one of the better players he ever coached and one of the hardest hitters.
“I all my years of high school football he's one of the heaviest hitters there was,” Alderman said. “In other words, he could meet a guy at the line of scrimmage, plug the gap and be a strong solo tackler. I think he was the best in (the Southwestern Conference) this year at it to be honest. I think that's going to translate well to whatever level he's at. The fact that he's kind of a young senior, he could still develop a lot. He's not afraid of the weight room, so he'll get a lot bigger and a lot stronger and that will make for a great college player.”
He'll take what he learned at Alton with him to the next level. He was a consummate leader by example and his fierce tackling skills had teams keying on No. 55 every Friday.
“I learned being a team player, not being an independent player,” Gipson said. “(Coach Alderman) preaches teamwork a lot.”
Gipson will miss not donning the red and white every week like he has the past three seasons as a starter.
“I'll miss the fans and playing in front of all my friends and family,” he said.
But that's the nice aspect of playing for McKendree. Head coach Mike Babcock has done a stellar job at keeping local talent staying at home. This past season the Bearcats had Cameron James and Darius Crochrell from Edwardsville, Ryan Herring, Jeffrey Brown and Jakob Wittlich from Belleville East, Shayeen Edwards of Cahokia, Kyle Kirkpatrick and Wyatt Sutton of Civic Memorial, Casey Krohne and Brett Pearman of Granite City, Harry Uyehara of Collinsville, Jamario Jeffries and Marquis Cherry of Belleville West, Marquette's Derrick Starrett, Chris Halpin of Gillespie and Eddie Lusk III of Triad.
“I think it's great that their families are going to be able to be close to them and follow them, their friends from high school, plus their community,” Alderman said. “I think the Alton community gets behind their kids tremendously and this going to be fun for us as a group and a community to follow Ricco and Josh and all of our kids that go over there.”
But Alderman admitted Gipson will be missed on the field for the Redbirds next season. His production and quiet leadership will be monumental to replace.
“They're going to miss his leadership and his offseason work ethic and they're going to miss the example he set for us defensively,” Alderman said. “But he's left a lasting legacy, a lot of younger kids look up to and I think they're going to realize that because of Ricco Gipson what it takes to be a great player in the Southwestern Conference.”
Gipson projects to be a middle linebacker at McKendree. He will major in sports management.