A second or two.
That’s about all it takes for a quarterback to read a pass defense on any given play.
It’s also all the time Greg Hibbard needs to make a counter move as Pacific Lutheran University’s starting free safety.
Hibbard, a Capital High School graduate, is the ideal blend of speed (runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds) and intelligence (holds a 3.99 grade-point average) for a safety.
Even after Hibbard finished third on the team in tackles (59), and was selected second team all-Northwest Conference in 2012, Lutes defensive coordinator Craig McCord said he believes the statistics and accolades don’t begin to tell the whole story about Hibbard.
“He’s one of the smartest, savvy players we’ve ever had before,” McCord said. “He has a commitment to be excellent.”
McCord’s statement is illustrated by a play in last week’s 42-21 victory over Lewis & Clark.
The Pioneers took the football first, and drove to the PLU 13-yard line. On second down, quarterback Keith Welch thought he had a receiver wide open in the end zone for a touchdown, and gunned a pass in that direction.
Hibbard read it perfectly, and raced over to make his first interception of the season to stop the scoring threat.
“I just saw what was there and cut into his route,” Hibbard said. “We studied what (Welch) likes to do and I just used that information.”
McCord used the interception as an example of Hibbard’s true value to the PLU defense.
“He’s like a player/coach out there for us,” he said. “He has an understanding for the game and what it takes to succeed – it helps us having a player like that. I tell him that he could be a coach if he wanted to.”
“He’s just been able to understand the things in front of him,” said Dorothy Hibbard, Greg’s mother. “Even when he was little, you could see him figuring (something) out.”
Hibbard is fortunate to be playing football after suffering a traumatic leg injury as a child.
When he was 6, he was involved in a car accident that shattered the femur bone in his left leg. Doctors cautioned Hibbard’s parents, Rich and Dorothy, that the fracture could result in amputation.
“The doctors were telling us they weren’t sure he would walk again,” Rich Hibbard said. “I was only worried about him walking with a limp or one leg being shorter than the other.”
After two successful surgeries and intense rehabilitation, Hibbard was back to full health 18 months later – even joining the Barron Park Striders, a private track and field club in Olympia.
“You couldn’t stop him when he was allowed to run again,” Rich Hibbard said. “I was amazed because he looked faster. ... Now he’s using his gifts in college.”
Kevin Manning: 253-597-8680