After the losing season in Mike Dubose’s first year at the helm of the program, Gilbert’s freshmen year saw the Tide rebound to a 7-5 season and play in the postseason.
A year later, Gilbert was a member of the 1999 SEC Championship squad that also earned the honor of being the first Alabama team to play in a BCS bowl. Then came the embattled 2000 season, where the Tide came into the year with lofty expectations, only to finish with a 4-7 record that would ultimately see Dubose’s tenure as head coach ended.
By Gilbert’s senior season, life on the field had come full-circle under new head coach Dennis Franchione as Alabama once again rebound to a 7-5 season and earned a right to play in a bowl.
The ever-changing dynamic Gilbert experienced at the Capstone wasn’t lost on him.
Instead, he uses the lessons learned during his time at Alabama to help mold the young men under his tutelage — members of the Walker Vikings’ defense.
“You learn from adversity in those situations. It’s a life lesson that you take with you on and off the field — there’s going to be ups and downs in life like there is in football,” Gilbert said. “Character develops on how you deal with the adversity in front of you, no matter what aspect of life it involves.”
Gilbert returned to his alma mater, Oxford High School, to pass on his experiences to the next generation in the years after his college career had ended.
This year, he joined coach John Holladay’s staff at Walker. For Gilbert, the transition from the Class 6A Yellow Jackets to the 5A Vikings has been one of enjoyment.
“It’s been a wonderful experience for me. Sometimes you just have to leave the nest and I thought joining the staff at Walker would be a wonderful opportunity for me,” Gilbert said. “Walker’s had great tradition in the past and working with coaches such as coach Holladay has been a blessing. We’re all committed to having a great season.” Gilbert’s immediate goals are to get the best out of the players under his leadership and to help them be successful.
“My intentions are to give our players the best opportunity they can have to be successful,” Gilbert said. “I just want these young men to come out, work hard — it’s all about competing and getting better every day. They, in turn, have to take what they learn in the film room and out on the field for everything to come together.”
The move to Jasper also brings another added benefit — being much closer to Tuscaloosa, where the drive is shortened from a two to a one-hour trip.
“We have a lot of SEC-caliber athletes in our area that are going to be playing on Saturdays in the future,” Gilbert said. “It’s going to be a joy to make my way down to Bryant-Denny Stadium to watch them play.” The Vikings open their season by hosting the Cullman Bearcats on Aug. 30.