Shawn Gibbs became the North Carolina A&T running backs coach in 2011 and there has only been two seasons since his arrival that an Aggies running back has not been named Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
Mike Mayhew was the offensive player of the year in 2011. Tarik Cohen won the honor three straight seasons (2014-16) along with being named MEAC Rookie of the Year in 2013. Mayhew led the MEAC in rushing in 2011 while Cohen has led the league in rushing four straight seasons (2013-16) while also putting together four straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
Under Gibbs, Cohen became the most accomplished running back in school history. Cohen’s other accomplishments include being the MEAC’s and N.C. A&T’s all-time leading rusher (5,619), being named to numerous All-American teams, being a four-time first-team All-MEAC selection and being one of the most nationally recognized players in the nation. Cohen also broke the Aggies single-season rushing record with 1,588 yards. By winning three straight offensive player of the year awards, Cohen became the first player in MEAC history to win three offensive player of the year awards. Cohen finished his career by being drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears.
There have been other successes at running back for Gibbs since his arrival in Aggieland. Ricky Lewis had a career year in 2012, rushing for 437 yards and six touchdowns on 97 carries. Dominique Drake, Cohen and Lewis combined to score 19 rushing touchdowns in 2013. In his first season under Gibbs, Cohen broke the Aggies freshman rushing record by becoming the first Aggies rookie to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. Cohen also finished ninth for the Jerry Rice award given to the best rookie in the FCS. In each of the past five seasons A&T’s running game has ranked now lower than fourth in the MEAC.
Before his time at A&T, Gibbs spent four seasons as Grambling’s running backs coach. Under Gibbs’ watch, the Tigers possessed one of the most successful running games in Division I-FCS. Gibbs inherited a young running back corps that included freshmen Frank Warren and Cornelius Walker. In their first year under Gibbs, Warren and Walker combined for 1,466 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. Warren was named SWAC Freshman of the Year in 2007 as he finished with 901 yards.
The running game continued to flourish under Gibbs in 2009. The Grambling rushing attack ascended to a No. 12 ranking nationally. During the same season, Warren registered 84.2 yards per game, while Walker compiled 58.6 yards per contest. The following season, Warren finished fourth in the nation in rushing with 139.7 yards per game, and Grambling ranked 15th in the nation in rushing.
Gibbs’ stint at A&T marks his third stop with head coach Rod Broadway. He was also a running backs coach under Broadway at N.C. Central from 2003-06. During his four seasons there, he helped the Eagles put together one of the best offenses in Division II football. The Eagles won consecutive CIAA titles in 2005 and ‘06. During the 2006 season, the Eagles led the CIAA in scoring offense, total offense and rushing offense.
The Eagles’ running game was led Greg Pruitt, Jr. Under Gibbs, Pruit developed into one of the most feared running backs in the nation and the school’s all-time leading rusher. Pruitt led the Eagles in rushing or three straight seasons, including two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2004 and ‘05. Pruitt finished his career with more than 3,000 yards rushing. As a result, he signed a free agent contract with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
The relationship Gibbs has with the Eagles football program extends to him being a star running back for the Eagles (1993-97). He ranks among the all-time leading rushers in school history with 1,687 yards. Over his career, he averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Gibbs tied the school record for longest rushing touchdown from scrimmage in 1996 when he went 89 yards against Fayetteville State. Gibbs led the Eagles in rushing during the 1996 and ‘97 seasons, and he ranks among the Eagles’ top career scoring leaders with 121 points. He had a career-best 10 touchdowns in 1996.