Coy also makes his presence felt off the field, where Stanford's liberalism and Coy's right-wing Christian roots collide head-on. "Coy is ultraconservative, and he doesn't shut up," says Nathan Olsen. "Around here that's not politically correct." It's not true that Gibbs is planning a Palo Alto Rush Room, but it's fair to say that his politics glow like highway flares on the Stanford campus. "I have a set of morals I believe in," says Coy, "and I'll argue to the death for them."
Coy's older brother, J.D., 25, works for his father as vice president of marketing at Joe Gibbs Racing in Charlotte, changes the left-side tires on Dale Jarrett's Chevy Lumina along the NASCAR circuit and races late-model stock cars on rural tracks—all of which Coy would like to do himself. This is why he will leave Stanford after the last football game this season and go home to work with his father. "I'll go to UNC Charlotte after the season," he says. "I made a commitment to play football at Stanford; I didn't make a commitment to finish school."
Sometimes his strong will has not been to his advantage. When he was a sophomore at Madison High in Fairfax, Va., Coy came back from a knee injury only to suffer another one, which caused him to be benched in the final game of the season. Sitting next to his father on the car ride home, he cried for the entire trip. "It was one of the biggest heartbreaks we've ever had," says Joe Gibbs.
For his senior year Coy transferred to DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md., a 45-minute drive from his home in Vienna, Va. He filled a glove compartment with $75 tickets for driving in a lane reserved for car pools, and for the first four weeks of football season he lived in a hotel near DeMatha. The payoff was participation in a program that sent 16 players to Division I-A or I-AA schools...and Coy to Stanford, on the other side of the country.
Coy's decision shook his family, even though Stanford was the only I-A program that offered him a scholarship. "But I've learned never to tell Coy what to do," says his mother, Pat. As a college assistant and recruiter, Joe Gibbs had always told parents to keep their sons close to home. J.D. played at William & Mary, in Williamsburg, Va., 3½ hours from D.C.
As a football player Coy has come into his own at Stanford. "He's mean, and that's why he's good," says tight end Tony Cline (son of former Oakland Raider and San Francisco 49er defensive end Tony Cline—this genealogy thing is epidemic at Stanford). Besides being small, Coy must spring from a right knee with a shredded posterior cruciate ligament, yet he was second on the team in tackles last season with 92, and is first this season with 28 through the first four games. The game is his joy. "I love all the players here," he says. "I wouldn't trade football for anything."
Coy's move to Stanford made Joe realize that he would never get back the hours he lost to coaching, and this hastened his retirement in March 1993. Joe recalled an autumn night in his heyday with the Redskins when he arrived home and trudged up the stairs to Coy's room. "When they were little, it was my job to put the kids to bed," says Joe. "I leaned over to kiss Coy good night, and he had a beard. I said, 'Good gosh, what happened? He was a baby yesterday.' " What happened was long nights spent building Super Bowl champions. Joe gave Coy summers at training camp and Sundays on the Redskins' sidelines, but while he concentrated on football, the child became a man without him. "I knew our lifestyle was abnormal," says Joe. "And I left football not long after that night."
Now each weekend the father flies from North Carolina to share a Friday dinner with his son and to watch him play on Saturday. "It means a lot to him," says Coy. "It means a lot to me, too."
Don't fear for the son's diploma. Coy Gibbs's understanding of education in the '90s, when a college degree can lead to stuffing soft tacos, is rooted in common sense. "Education is what you make of it," he says. "It's helped me to come here, it's helped me grow. But [Stanford] is all about using the right word at the right time." He plans to finish his education at UNC Charlotte yet return to Stanford to graduate, in his own time, at his own pace.
Oh, and he has no NFL fantasies. "I'm not living in a dream world," he says. His world is back home, with his family.