Parkway West will retire Blaine Gabbert’s jersey
By: Warren Mayes
The former Longhorn standout wore No.11 and now, it will be encased at the Parkway West football stadium for all to see.
Brian Kessler, the Parkway West activities director, said the school is honored to have Gabbert return.
“Blaine is still playing and when we decided to do this, we looked and saw this was his bye week and that we had a home game,” Kessler said. “He’s coming. I hope he’s excited about it. We see him on campus a lot in the offseason. It’ll be neat for Parkway West.”
Parkway West coach Jeff Duncan said he has been working on the Gabbert ceremony since last winter.
“As soon as the 2012-2013 NFL schedule was announced, I saw that Jacksonville had a bye week during one of our home games,” Duncan said. “We started putting things together at that time.”
Kessler said this is the first step in beginning to promote the history of athletics at the school.
Parkway West opened in 1968 and it is the only Parkway school that has not retired jerseys or started a Hall of Fame. No longer.
“It’s time for Parkway West to do this,” Kessler said. “A lot of people got this going. We have a long tradition of athletic success here at Parkway West and that’s why we want to recognize people who gave to our athletic community and also start a hall of fame.”
His number technically won’t be retired, just his jersey.
“He will get it but we’ll have an aluminum dye cutout at the stadium for one,” Kessler said. “As we do other sports, we’ll have those at their fields or wherever.”
In addition to Parkway West recognizing Gabbert, the ceremony will be nice for the Gabbert family, Duncan said.
” I believe he and his family feel very honored that West high is recognizing him for his accomplishments,” Duncan said.
Gabbert will be the first athlete but there will be more.
“We have some planned for this winter,” said Kessler.
In high school, Gabbert was highly recruited. He had an outstanding career under coach Mike Roth, now the athletic director at Parkway Central. Unfortunately, a foot injury in his senior season limited his playing time to four games.
As a senior, he threw for 623 yards and five touchdowns as a senior. His junior year was a breakout season with 1,523 yards passing and 20 touchdowns. He also added another 458 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. As a sophomore, Gabbert threw for 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns as a first-year starter.
“I couldn’t be happier for Blaine,” Roth said. “It’s quite an accomplishment to have your jersey retired by your alma mater. He certainly accomplished a lot in his high schoool career. He was very talented in high school. Blaine worked very hard at this craft. He put in countless hours not only in the season but in the offseason to make himself a better football player and to help the team.”
Roth said it was a pleasure to coach Gabbert.
“It’s not to often you have NFL quarterbacks walking in the hallway,” Roth said. “I had heard a lot of about him before I met him. He was a tall, gangly kid and he could throw it a mile. He worked hard to develop his body. He’s earned all his accomplishments.”
Roth won’t be able to attend the ceremony for Gabbert. Undefeated Parkway Central has a home game Friday night against undefeated Kirkwood. The Suburban South Conference championship is on the line.
“We have a little game to play here,” Roth quipped. “I haven’t spoken to Blaine in a while but Brian Kessler told me about this so I want to catch up with him this weekend.
“It’s a tremendous honor for him. I’m very happy for him.”
Duncan said the ceremony and Gabbert being in attendance will not be a distraction.
“Our players are aware,” Duncan said. “They are excited. It’s great to have an alum playing in the NFL. There is no distraction with something like this. You have to be proud and remember moments like this.
Although he first chose to go to Nebraska, Gabbert changed his mind and went to Missouri to play for coach Gary Pinkel.
At Missouri, Gabbert followed a long line of talented quarterbacks before leaving after his junior season for the NFL Draft. He was chosen at No. 10 in the first round by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2011 draft. The Jaguars has a bye this week so the Chesterfield native will be on hand for the ceremony.
The Jaguars are off to a 1-4 start this season. Gabbert, 22, is 80 of 146 passing for 796 yards. Gabbert has thrown for five touchdowns but he also has three interceptions and two fumbles. His passer rating is 73.3.
In three years at Missouri, Gabbert 6,822 yards and 40 touchdowns. He completed 61 percent of his passes.
“We’re proud to honor Blaine,” Kessler said. “This is our introduction to getting this program started here at Parkway West. Any former athlete who were a high school or collegiate all American, participated in the Olympics or played professionally in their sport will be honored by the school.
“We’re getting started on this and we’re all excited about it.”