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Offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons talks FSU decision, GoFundMe campaign and more

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Faith, family, friends and football.

Florida State offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons sat down Wednesday for a post spring interview blowing everyone away discussing efforts he and everyone in the community have made for his friend Timothy Donovan. Gibbons also discusses the recruiting process out of the transfer portal, leadership in the offensive line room, why he chose FSU and many other topics in his near 20 minute interview that can be seen (and read) below.

*Get your tissues ready. Normally, answers are condensed but the transfer was so engaging, we made the fall of including quotes in full.

When Gibbons was asked about why he decided that Florida State would be his final collegiate destination, proximity played a big part in that decision.

“It’s actually one of the main reasons why I did transfer to Florida State. See, having my family at games means the world to me. It costs my family a lot of money to get to South Bend every weekend for all the home games.

“We were lucky enough to have a house up there because my brother went to law school at Notre Dame. At the same time, it was financially pretty tough to get up there. Another part of it too, is my grandpa had multiple open-heart surgeries the past four years. He can’t fly. It’s one of the things he’s been struggling with over the past six years now, so he’s never been able to see me play college football.

“So being closer to home for my last two seasons, I’ll be able to have the whole family there with my grandpa.”

Timothy Donovan’s GoFundMe has gained a lot of popularity and for good reason. As of today TakeTimothyToTally is over 47 thousand dollars, climbing towards the goal of 75 thousand. It was originally just supposed to cover a trip for Timothy and his family to Tallahassee but surpassed those goals quickly.

Here’s how the process of starting a GoFundMe went for Gibbons:

“When I started my college career back in 2017 is when I actually met Timothy, if you’d like me to get into that story and how I built that relationship I could at some point, but the bottom line is once I met him and made a connection with him, I made a very distinct decision in my life to engage with him. And not just have a one-off relationship, or a one off day where I’d just give him my gloves and walk off.

“You know I wanted to do as much as I possibly could. You see, before the last couple months I wasn’t allowed to do anything among the lines of a GoFundMe or anything like that. So most of the things I gave him were my time, just a connection and him just having a person to talk to. Once I started hearing things about Name and Likeness from major media sources probably about a year ago, and I just started hearing that it could happen in my college career.

“So I mapped out a game plan at one of my strategic business classes at Notre Dame of how I could actually raise the money for his family. Initially it started as just trying to get him to the game. But as everyone has seen here, it’s blossomed into something else. It’s making a radical impact on him and his family’s life.”

“I started it, I believe, on a Thursday or Wednesday. It started getting some slow momentum. The FSU fan base and media sources all picked it up. It wasn’t until the weekend when Notre Dame picked it up and started running with it, and I was actually driving back home which is something I haven’t done in my four years given that I’ve been up in South Bend for a while because its a 17 hour drive.

I was in the car when it started getting more and more momentum. I actually had to pull over because I was so overwhelmed, I couldn’t even think or drive. I never had an experience like that in my whole life. Once I pulled over, I’m glad I pulled over, because the brand Super Coffee donated $15,000 probably two minutes after I pulled over. I probably would’ve had a serious accident if I heard that news when I was driving.

I’m completely overwhelmed, my family is overwhelmed. The Donovan family can’t even see straight. They’re very excited about it, but they still have a lot of things going on in Timothy’s life. They’ve had to kinda pause their efforts in the campaign. Mrs. Donovan (Paula) has been reading every single comment on Twitter, whether it’s GoFundMe, Twitter, Instagram, she’s been informing Timothy of everything.”

“Timothy, this summer he actually had a back surgery. This was the first surgery of his life where he was allowed to say ‘go or no go.’ He ended up having it. The day he went in to have the surgery, he had a 90-degree bend in his spine. The second he got out of the surgery center, he had a 40-degree bend in his spine. He actually grew 4 or 5 inches. He made that decision. But along with that surgery, he’s had some complications. Right now he’s had pneumonia and is trying to recover, because when you do have a bend in your spine like that, it’s very difficult to breathe. It’s very easy to get pneumonia.

“He’s struggling with that and was actually admitted into the hospital the other day. And I’ve been in conversation with his family, he’s in good spirits but he’s definitely still struggling.”

Timothy and his family are making their way down to Tallahassee for the season opener against Notre Dame on September 5th. Gibbons explained what that means to him.

“I like to compartmentalize my life and for me to think what I need to perform or whatever it is. So for me, it’s my faith, my family, my friends, and football. Right? So faith, if I have that going on for me, I feel good about going out into the game. If my family is there, that’s another box to check. My friends, it’s the same kind of deal. If I have all that in line, I don’t have to think about a thing while playing football. Timothy and the Donovan family kinda exist in the area between friends and family because we’ve had such an odd relationship throughout the years because he’s become more than just a friend, someone I lean on at different times and leans on me. Being able to check that box and have Timothy at the game is going to mean the world to me. He wasn’t able to attend a lot of my games last year, but this year will be something different.”

Dillan Gibbons wants the full five-star treatment when they get here.

“Going ahead with the logistics and everything. Initially I had a goal, I think it was a couple thousand dollars. And that was just going to be for the travel expenses, room, board things of that nature.

“People from the FSU community really stepped up. People in town here. We’ve had a hotel step up. We’ve had the Garnet and Gold bookstore step up they’re going to give the family all the gear they can possibly carry out of the store. We’ve had some people in the boosters clubs and donating tickets and parking passes.”

“My plan for his day is a day in the sun. Make it like an official visit. Everything that we would give to one of those five-star recruits rolling through the program, I’d like him to experience. At the end of the day, my goal is try to get this as far as I can up the chain at FSU, to get him out on the field at some point during the game.

“Because, again, this whole initiative is to get him his day in the sun. And really the sky is the limit for that. Use your imagination. Whatever you guys see fit, just give me some advice, people to talk to or things I should try to achieve because it is difficult doing it by myself. But luckily I have you guys and the rest of the FSU community to lean on.”

He also mentioned how well he fits in with the culture Mike Norvell is instilling at FSU:

“I think it’s one of those deals of odd luck of how much I do fit in the program and what Coach Norvell is trying to instill into the program. When Name, Image, Likeness started coming up, I was kind of appalled with some of the things I was hearing. Some of the predictions of what was going to happen. I kind of had a picture in my head of the star player on the team rolling up in the Escalade or whatever you want to call it, a really fancy car, on the first day.

“Just imagine how the rest of the team would feel and what kind of separation that would cause in the locker room. So when I started thinking about it, started thinking about how are we going to try to not force the I into team and how are we going to do this as an collective unit. And in order to use my Name, Image, and Likeness to the best of my ability, I chose to give back to my friend Timothy. I think the fit is definitely there, but I do think it’s odd luck that I did enter the program and that I fit so well with Coach Norvell’s philosophy.”.

“It’s a very interesting dynamic,” he said of the locker room environment. “There’s a few different players last year who got forced straight out of high school, maybe one year in the program, into playing four quarters of Division I football. Right? Every single game, every single snap. Having young guys who were forced into it and not having the right amount of senior leadership on the team can cause a rift inside the offensive line. I think now, our offensive line so far is in a really good place. We have some veterans who are leading the room. Guys like me, Devontay Love-Taylor, Brady Scott. Guys that have been around college football for a while. I do think we’re doing a lot better job taking control of the room and setting an actual standard.”

What made Gibbons choose Florida State?

“I think I woke up a day after the spring game up at Notre Dame. I wondered what was keeping me at Notre Dame for my fifth and potentially sixth year. So again, I had some meetings and things. I didn’t necessarily get the answers I wanted out of some coaches about the perspectives of my future. So I went ahead, and I was thinking about schools. You see, a lot of schools try to recruit guys out of the transfer portal. I went ahead and made my decision before I got recruited by a single school. I wanted to be back in the state of Florida. And the only school I even considered was FSU, just because when I was a kid I was a big fan of FSU. And the proximity to home. And it being one of the major Florida schools I really appreciated. And for me, I was also looking for a school where I could also get into the MBA program, and a school that would have me for a fifth and sixth year. So Florida State fit all that criteria. I was contacted by, I don’t know, 75-plus coaches. I’m sure you guys can imagine, it was like being recruited all over again. Once Florida State did reach out to me, I reached out to them and told them what my intentions were and if they’d have me.”

He also expanded on how he feels about the dynamic of the locker room.

“It’s a very interesting mix of guys. I think all the players that are Florida State through and through, and have been here for four years or a few years at least who’ve been recruited out of high school, are all very accepting of guys like me and Devontay Love-Taylor and guys who are coming here and making an actual impact on the team. I’ll raise you one. The most interesting dynamic I’ve been faced with is the ability to communicate with guys on the team. Being at Notre Dame, everyone was kinda held to the same exact standard. Everyone was kind of a cookie cutter. So you could fit each player in a very distinct mold. At Florida State, you have a wide variety of kids. Transfers. Guys from Miami-Dade county. Guys from St. Pete. All over the place. Having the experience to talk to those guys is definitely a learning experience, being able to communicate and coach guys, it’s really a whole element of radical candor. Challenging people directly and caring for them personally.”

On UCF transfer quarterback McKenzie Milton’s work ethic.

“He’s a very hard-working guy. He’s an amazing story. One of the most storied guys I know. I feel like I’ve been through injuries and things in my life, but he’s gone through that 10-fold. I’m always in there getting rehab, getting extra work in the weight room. He’s one of those guys that’s here as soon as I get here in the morning. So if I’m the first guy or he’s the first guy, we’re there at the same time. He works very hard. Again, he’s still climbing. He loves to learn. A leader. It’s kind of odd to see that dynamic in the quarterback room, but he’s a natural-born leader the way he talks to people, the way he interacts. He definitely holds himself to a high standard.”

How he feels about the opportunity presented in front of him at FSU:

“See, at Notre Dame, when I was the sixth man, there’s a lot asked from the sixth guy on the offensive line. I had to have the ability to step in at every position. I had to know what everyone was doing, what everyone’s game plan was for that week. So if you think about it, I was kind of cooking for a while. Having the opportunity to step into a program and radically change the culture of the offensive line is something I was waiting for. Whether that had been my fifth year or potentially sixth year at Notre Dame. What was guaranteed to me was coming to Florida State and making a radical impact. So those are my intentions. I hope you guys understand them. I’m putting my best foot forward in every aspect here at FSU and I’m just trying to do my best.”

Gibbons also plans to join the MBA program at FSU and appears to be a jack of all trades when it comes to what he wants to do if football doesn’t work out.

“Yeah, lets start with grad school. At Notre Dame I worked really hard for over 12 months. That didn't really work out for me at Notre Dame. I ended up getting into the MSF and the MSM programs, at the end of the day I had to walk away from that. so here at Florida State, I’m gonna pick up the MBA program. I’m gonna be in that for a year but right now I’m kinda struggling, talking to admission to see what type of program because they offer a wide variety of specializations. I’ll probably be in real estate. I’ve had experience in private equity and investment banking, I’ve even worked with a bottling company over the years. I’ve had a wide variety over the years as far as experience. I see myself getting into real estate or private equity straight out of college in the next couple of years if the NFL doesn't work out for me.