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Gibbons preparing for exciting weekend with old and new friends

Dillan Gibbons knows Sunday night will be special, his first game as a Florida State offensive linemen, with his family making the trip from Clearwater in what will have a game day feel at Doak Campbell Stadium that hasn’t been seen since 2019.

He will also be able to share the weekend with his friend Timothy Donovan, who was born with VACTERL (a nonrandom association of birth defects). Through his GoFundMe campaign that went viral in July, Gibbons helped organize an effort to bring Timothy and his family to Tallahassee. FSU fans and the Tallahassee community contributed more than $50,000 to not only help make the trip a reality but to assist Timothy’s parents, Tim and Paula, with the care their son needs.

“Timothy is on his way,” Gibbons said. “He and his family are very excited. I just want it to be his day in the sun. FSU has done a great job, the community around here in putting together a very special visit for Timothy. He has a lot of support. I’m trying to share his story to as many people as possible, bring him around the facility, there’s all kinds of nice events planned.”

He is keeping the details a surprise for Timothy and his family but he has previously said he wants it to be similar to an official visit weekend for a recruit. Timothy is a Notre Dame fan but will no doubt be cheering for his friend Gibbons from the stands.

Gibbons will also use his platform as an athlete to help others. He has launched Big Man Big Heart, a non-profit that will help him expand his charitable efforts.

On the field, Gibbons is looking to make his second career start (he started in 2020 vs. Syracuse). He will line up at left guard, alongside tackle Robert Scott and center Maurice Smith. The addition of Gibbons as well as the healthy return of Devontay Love-Taylor are reasons for optimism that the line will take a step forward, building on the success in the run game last fall and potentially improving in pass protection.

FSU coach Mike Norvell and assistant coaches have frequently mentioned the need to have eight offensive linemen who are dependable and versatile. Gibbons has less starting experience but plenty of practice reps while learning alongside a talented line at Notre Dame that had three linemen drafted in the spring.

“What I’ve learned at least being part of a few different really good offensive lines through my career so far, you need to have six or seven guys, even eight in some cases, to have a good offensive line that makes it all the way through the season,” Gibbons said. “There’s only one true fact in football. Everyone is going to get hurt, right? What is the percent of somebody getting hurt? It’s 100 percent. At the end of the day you need extra guys and having that ability to have six, seven, eight guys rotate in at different times it’s incredible.”

Gibbons will look across the line on Sunday and see plenty of familiar faces. The Fighting Irish are loaded with juniors, seniors and grad students in the defensive front seven. 

“Yeah, I’ve gone against those guys for thousands of reps,” Gibbons said. “Some of those guys are my best friends in the world and they always will be. I’m probably going to have to ruin a few friendships. I’m excited to get after it.”

Two notable observations

Jarrian Jones had been limited for a large portion of preseason camp but was always present and observing. On Wednesday morning, the cornerback was an active participant in 1-on-1 drills with receivers as well as 11-on-11 situations.

“He’s full clearance and ready to go for Sunday,” Norvell said. “Now it’s just about the timing, the rhythm, getting all of those things throughout the course of the week in practice. Jarrian has done a nice job of the mental aspect of the game. He had a great summer. You can see he’s completely changed his body. He understands the expectation. He’s in good shape and he’s got the right mindset and edge.”

McKenzie Milton had moments of inconsistency while passing on Wednesday. His accuracy at times on crossing routes was off, but later in practice he dropped a 40- or 50-yard pass over the middle right into the arms of a receiver in stride.