Walker Valley record-holding senior quarterback Kolten Gibson (3) has a chance to record his 100th career prep touchdown this season. Gibson totaled 39 scores last year and will need to light up the scoreboard again this season in hopes for a winning season.
When comparing stat lines, the reason why Aaron Rodgers is Kolten Gibson's favorite quarterback is easy to see.
The two-time NFL MVP over his past 21 games has thrown for 53 touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions.
The reigning Region 4-5A Player of the Year over the same time frame has thrown 47 touchdown passes and only been intercepted 11 times.
"I watch a lot of film with my older brother Brice, who played cornerback at Walker Valley," Gibson said. "He really helped me a lot in learning how to break down defenses. I really like Rodgers because he doesn't throw many picks, and he can get out of the pocket and make plays with his feet," he said of the Green Bay Packers All-Pro.
Gibson has used his legs to bail him out of trouble as well, as the soon to be fourth-year starter has run for 983 yards on 197 carries and scored 18 times over the past two seasons.
While the realm of the unknown has faced the uber-talented Mustang signal caller this off-season after his top three receivers and backfield mate have departed, another strong season could draw quite the attention. Especially when considering 42 of his touchdown passes (or 89.4 percent) over his sophomore and junior campaigns went to either Cooper Melton, Bryce Nunnelly or Zach Eslinger.
However, among his new weapons will be a handful of talented receivers, including 6-foot-5 Zeke Westfield. Some around town have predicted the breakout candidate to score 15-20 touchdowns working with Gibson.
"I expect Zeke to have a huge season," Gibson said. "He is a big target and he can really go get the ball. We also have Luke Wallace, Brock Gibson, Sam Clements and Caleb Grannan, who have no varsity experience, but are working really hard and getting better and better".
With smart decision making along with a knack for the end zone (74 career touchdowns), Gibson should remain one of the top gunslingers in the state.
Experience should go a long way against opponents for Gibson, who has thrown 53 touchdowns and rushed for 21 in 31 career starts. He held every passing record at Walker Valley halfway through his sophomore campaign.
"We are super excited to have Kolten back another year." WVHS head coach Glen Ryan said. "He is a good football player and a great young man. He will be that guy who leads on and off the field. He's going to help us tremendously."
Gibson's most memorable touchdown was his first as a 14-year-old quarterback in a 17-13 win at home over county rival Bradley Central in 2014. He also remembers a time in a championship game where he audibled out of a play called by his dad and scored a touchdown.
"It was very nerve-racking, I can remember," said Gibson of starting as a freshman. "To play against 17- and 18-year-olds at that age was scary in a way, but I loved it."
The 6-foot-2, 175 pound starboard slinger has since led Walker Valley to its first ever playoff victory, as he totaled 413 yards (301 passing, 112 rushing) and four touchdowns in a 35-27 playoff victory on the road against Oak Ridge last November.
With only two athletes in the state scoring more than Gibson's 39 total touchdowns (in 11 games) last season, a legendary type performance helped generate the Mustangs' most successful offense ever.
In a 68-36 win over Cleveland, the right-handed dual-threat totaled 512 yards (420 passing, 92 rushing) and scored eight touchdowns (5 passing, 3 rushing), which is tied for third most in TSSAA history.
Walker Valley also scored the seventh most points in the state per game, as they scored 501 points (41.8 ppg) in 12 games and were even without Gibson for one showing.
With plenty of chances coming to light up the scoreboard, he is excited about the opportunities to assert his will on opposing defenses.
Gibson needs 26 touchdowns to become the 11th quarterback in state history to score 100 or more touchdowns, according to the TSSAA.
"It would be pretty cool to reach that milestone," said the Mustang signal caller, who scored four or more touchdowns in five games last season. "Not many people have done it, so it would be pretty neat."
While Gibson has no control over what happens on the other side of the ball, he will do his best to put his defense in situations where one stop could give his offense the chance to pull away for good.
"I am very competitive and I hate to lose," he said. "I want to go out and lead my team by example. If we don't turn the ball over, we have a really good shot at making a run."
Gibson needs 2,350 passing yards this season to climb into the fifth spot all-time in the state for most passing yardage in a career. Of his career total of 6,058 a whopping total of 3,004 came last season as he threw for 29 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
He only was sacked 9 times in 316 drop backs, while his 273.1 yards per game ranked ninth among the state's top quarterbacks in 2016.
While Gibson may see an increase in his scrambles this season, with the timing perhaps a little different than with his past group, there is still plenty of reason to believe he can leave on a winning note.
"I expect this team to do some big things," said Gibson, who has three 100-yard rushing games in his career. "We want to make it to the playoffs again and make a run. I want to be remembered as a good teammate, hard worker and a great quarterback".
Perhaps with a big season as well, colleges will show some love, too, as Gibson is uncommitted but has reportedly drawn interest from UTC and Furman.
Either way, the Mustang quarterback will go down as one of the state's greatest prep quarterbacks if he can have a healthy and strong season.