CHARLOTTESVILLE, SEPT. 27 -- Always the same set of questions, never the chance to quietly revel in the smaller successes of the college game. Such is the curse of having a professional football coach as a father. But even if the label bothered J.D. Gibbs -- son of Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs -- he would find more than enough company this weekend.
The younger Gibbs, a cornerback for Division I-AA William and Mary, could spend much time Saturday chasing Virginia wide receiver Derek Dooley, one of five Virginia players with a famous father. Along with Dooley, son of former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, the Cavaliers roster includes former Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese's son Scott, the Rev. Jesse Jackson's son Yusef, professional golfer Calvin Peete's son Rickie, and Kentucky Coach Bill Curry's son Bill Jr. Even the Virginia coaching staff has strong bloodlines, with graduate assistant Jay Paterno -- son of Penn State Coach Joe Paterno -- having joined the staff last month.
The game could cause at least one family squabble, what with Virginia wide receivers coach Tom Sherman facing son Tom Sherman Jr., a William and Mary defensive back, and Virginia reserve offensive linemen Jim and Dan Reid opposing older brother Peter, the Tribe's starting left offensive tackle.
It's all part of the most unlikely of state rivalries, which seemingly began with William and Mary's 41-37 victory here in 1986, the nadir of a 3-8 Virginia season. The Tribe led at halftime two years ago before Virginia salvaged a 31-23 victory, and lost here last season by 24-12, although the Cavaliers suffered several injuries.
Gibbs hit quarterback Shawn Moore during the second half, a shot that appeared harmless at the time. Moore finished the half, but was unable to throw with a bruised shoulder the next week and missed the game at Clemson. The play, which Gibbs insists he can't remember, gave him a new title -- "the guy who knocked out Moore," who has since emerged as a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy.
"I didn't pay much attention to it," Gibbs said. "It was probably a fluke thing. I don't even remember it being that great of a hit."
Said Virginia offensive tackle Paul Collins: "It wasn't a monstrous hit. It was just a good tackle and he drove him into the turf. Shawn may not say anything about it, but he knows he missed the Clemson game because of it."
Virginia tailbacks Marcus Wilson and Terry Kirby also were injured in the game, and missed Clemson along with Jackson -- then a starting linebacker -- who was lost for the season with a knee injury.
For Gibbs, last year's Virginia game earned him a distinction other than the "son of" title that took root at Oakton High, where Gibbs earned honorable mention All-Met honors as a quarterback.
His summers were spent practicing at the Redskins' training camp in Carlisle, Pa., alongside quarterbacks Joe Theismann, Jay Schroeder and Doug Williams. "I'd love to play for my dad," Gibbs said. "But I have to be realistic. I'm a long, long shot."
Gibbs is practiced and polished when speaking about the Redskins, outgoing and personable otherwise -- characteristics that could seemingly give away his relation to the Redskins' head coach.
"If you didn't know, you would say 'here's an individual with a very good understanding of football' and you'd wonder where it came from," said William and Mary Coach Jimmye Laycock. "He brings a degree of confidence because he's been around the best. He's not awed by things and he doesn't get overwhelmed by any situation he's in."
The elder Gibbs, wary of injuries, refused to let his son play football until the seventh grade, Gibbs's first season at the helm of the Redskins. J.D. Gibbs played well immediately at quarterback, dodging pass rushes and jokes about his father's team, which started 0-5. "What hurts sometimes is watching all the work he puts into his games and then, if they lose, people will say stuff -- people who have no idea what they're talking about," Gibbs said.
Like his Virginia counterparts, he tries to play down having a well-known father. "When he came in here, he didn't want to talk to people just because he was Joe's son," Laycock said. "He was here to play football and didn't want to get caught up in that at all."
Apparently, he has succeeded. Few people outside the team at William and Mary realize he has a personal stake in the success of the Redskins, and he packs as big a punch into his tackle as any player. Not bad for a 5-10, 180 pound ex-quarterback.
"You still have to earn the respect of your teammates on the field," said Jackson, whose father attends Virginia games regularly. "If you don't earn that respect, then you might feel like you're standing out. You have to establish between your teammates that you're just one of the guys."
Joe Gibbs made it here to watch his son last year, but will miss his closest opportunity to see William and Mary play this season becausae he will be traveling to Phoenix for Sunday's game against the Cardinals. J.D. Gibbs has no desire to see the Redskins play in person this year; the division I-AA playoffs will coincide with the last month of the schedule.
The Gibbses share an interest in motorcycle racing, and J.D. Gibbs talks half-jokingly about pursuing a stint on the pro motorcross circuit, a prospect that must scare both his coach and his father, who injured a knee riding this summer. Young Gibbs also talks about succeeding his father in the coaching business. "I could see him being very good at it," Laycock said.
But then the memories of his youth set in, of a father often sleeping at Redskin Park and juggling a family life with a career in the limelight.
"That would be hard to do," J.D. Gibbs said. "He's a great coach. I'm proud of him. But I think I've proven myself on my own."