John Tyler running back Reggie Gipson rushed for negative yardage in the Lions' season opener Friday, yet the senior still proved to be the team's top playmaker.
Though JT struggled in the ground game, the senior came up big through the air, hauling in three catches for 147 yards while scoring once rushing and receiving.
Gipson's ability to aid the Lions in all areas makes him an ideal back for coach Ricklan Holmes.
"It's like a coach's dream," Holmes said of Gipson. "If you've got a guy that's going to be able to hit it up in there but also be that home run guy, that's a real good thing to have because now you don't have to change your personnel as far as giving the other team tendencies for what you're going to do."
Last year Gipson led the Lions with 7.0 yards per carry among those with at least 10 attempts. He was third on the team in carries in 2012 behind quarterback Greg Ward and running back DeQuante Woods, both of whom have graduated.
Expected to carry the load this year at running back, Gipson made full use of the offseason to prepare to be a focal point of the JT offense.
"I just came out and worked hard every day, just trying to get better and better each day," Gipson said.
In doing so, Gipson, who was voted by his peers as offensive captain, added bulk.
"He's a nice-sized kid now," Holmes said. "He's gained a little weight, became a little bit more durable and I think that has helped him. (It) has helped his confidence as far as running the ball, knowing he's going to be able to take a pounding if need be."
Despite the increased size, Gipson has retained the most coveted facet of his game: his speed.
"Reggie is very, very, very fast," Holmes said.
On Friday against Lufkin, Gipson took a screen pass 77 yards for the game's first score. He nearly broke another long touchdown but was hauled down at the 12 following a 65-yard catch and run.
"It's amazing," Gipson said of the success in the passing game. "I look forward to many more games like this, just trying to step up for the team and try to be the breakout player."
Though Gipson found the end zone again with a 3-yard run up the middle, he finished with negative-1 yards on seven carries as the Lions struggled to establish a run game.
"Holes weren't really opening up, but we're focusing more on that this week," Gipson said. "We should be getting better this weekend.
"I have faith in my O-line that we're going to create some holes."
JT will hope for an improved ground attack when Lancaster comes to town for a Saturday night game at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
"Hopefully we get to show that other part of him, which is the true running back where he's able to hit it up between tackles and make some things happen," Holmes said.