The basis of any great defense is the ability to stop the run; this is especially true at the high school level. No team has successfully transferred this concept into wins more than the Valor Christian Eagles. Employing a talented and stingy defense the Eagles won four consecutive state titles. One constant in this high level of defensive play and four state titles is Valor defensive tackle Stanley Gilbert, the 2012 PrepColorado Defensive Player of the Year.
The 6-0 300 pound Gilbert, a multi-year All-State performer, this season, more than the previous four needed to control the middle. Although once again talented, the Valor D was not manned by multiple DI, FCS talents as they have been in the past. Also, fellow linemates JaVaughn Johnson and Michael Mann were lost to graduation. To maintain the high standards of the Valor defense Gilbert would need to have his best season during the 2012 campaign. He did!
In 1999 Warren Sapp was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, the last defensive tackle to win that award. In 2009 Ndamukong Suh won the Chuck Bednarik trophy as the top college defender, during the history of that award defensive tackles as winners are few. If a defensive tackle is doing their job they toil in anonymity, working hard to allow for the success of others and the team. On paper Gilbert’s stats do not wow, around 50 tackles a couple of sacks, even a pass defended, but it is difficult to see Valor being as successful without Gilbert’s efforts. Using a combination of strength, leverage, hands and surprising athleticism, Gilbert ate up blockers, keeping Valor backers clean all season and allowing the Eagle defense to dominate.
Denver South corner Cameron French, Pomona linebacker Deshon Mayes as well as others warranted looks for the PrepColorado Defensive Player of the Year, but, full disclosure, I made up my mind during the 5A title game, when Gilbert took on a Cherokee Trail double team, defeated it, got upfield and made the play. I don’t think any other player in the state could have made that play. As great as the play was, defeating two very good Cherokee Trail linemen, Gilbert did multiple times during the game, all season long and consistently during his career. Greatness is the ability to make the difficult routine.
Currently Gilbert awaits a first college offer, as a slew of mid-majors and FCS schools decide if Gilbert’s lack of height is a hindrance or an advantage. Whatever their decision, at some point, a college will gain a player who will make them better.