Thursday, December 12, 2013
Each year, before the leaves turn or the first frost arrives, before the first football game is played on a field that galvanized a community, Maranacook football coach Joe Emery gathers his team and talks to them about No. 34.
Rick and Jake Gibson stand in front of Ricky Gibson’s football jersey on Wednesday at the Ricky GIbson Field of Dreams in Readfield. The field is named after Ricky, Rick’s son and Jake’s brother. Jake is a sophomore on the Maranacook football team this fall.
Staff photo by Joe Phelan
Ricky Gibson rolls across the football field after flipping the switch to turn on the newly installed lights in this Nov. 2008 photo.
He shares the story of an unselfish boy whose dying wish was to bring lights to a football field for others to cherish. He shares the story of a boy whose sacrifices should be championed by past, present and future Black Bears.
He shares the story of Ricky Gibson III.
"They need to know," Emery said. "I tell all the younger kids why we have lights here. I tell them why they wear the No. 34 decals on their helmets. I tell them why Ricky did what he did. Everyone coming in needs to know why we have the Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams."
Jake Gibson, a sophomore tailback/defensive end for the Black Bears, knows the story very well. He was 11 years old when his older brother died April 10, 2009 of an inoperable brain tumor. Ricky's No. 34 is retired.
"I think about him all the time," said the soft-spoken Jake Gibson, 15, of Wayne. "I let him know that I am working hard for him. I feel him out there. I know he'd tell me to keep working hard for it."
Ricky Gibson made it his wish to bring lights to school's football field. With the help of a supportive community and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which combined to raise more than $100,000, the dream became a reality. At a Dec. 20, 2008 ceremony, Ricky Gibson forever changed football in this town when he turned the lights on the field for the first time.
Moments after the brief ceremony concluded, an informal football pickup game broke out near midfield.
Rick Morand, who coached the Gibsons in youth football and helped spearhead the fundraising effort, remembers watching Ricky that day.
"He was in a wheelchair at the time," said Morand, a surgeon at Maine General Medical Center, "and he was watching Jake and his buddies play a game. It was very informal. That was all he wanted to see. It was his vision for the field. I knew he just wanted to see the kids play under those lights. It was his dream, and it came to life that day."
Added Jake Gibson: "I remember that day. I remember playing some pickup. I know it made Ricky happy, too."
Jake Gibson says he's also making his brother proud by the way he plays now. The younger Gibson says working hard is part of his makeup -- and he doesn't need to look far for motivation.
"Every time I walk on the field, it definitely gives me a lot of motivation during the games," he said. "It makes me want to work harder during every practice to be best player I can be. I don't know, I've always worked as hard as I could on the field but I play with everything I got."
Jake's father, Rick Gibson, says he thinks of Ricky often, particularly when watching the Black Bears play. However, he's quick to add that his sons were different football players.
"I'm proud every time I come out here," he said. "The flashbacks come just from the uniforms and seeing the kids out there playing. It's not so much with just watching Jake play. Their style of play is just totally different. Lisa (the boys' mother) couldn't stand watching Ricky playing because she hates full contact. I like it. I don't necessarily think of Ricky when I see Jake, but I think of Ricky every time I'm down here. It's still surreal.
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