Members of the Youngstown State football team took the field at Stambaugh Stadium on Sept. 6 for the home opener of the 2014 campaign. For teammates Nathan Gibbs and Joey Cejudo, this will be a very meaningful season because it will be their last.
The two have played together for most of their football career, meeting at the beginning in their freshmen year of high school.
“I first met Nate my freshman year when we had freshman football tryouts,” Cejudo said. “He tried lineman and I was trying QB, but in the end that didn’t work out so good for both of us.”
Gibbs and Cejudo attended Chino Hills High School in California, where they made a name for themselves as a force to be reckoned with on special teams. Gibbs held the position as the team’s long snapper, while Cejudo took on the duties of a kicker.
When their high school careers came to an end, it looked as though their partnership would end with it. Gibbs sent out a commitment letter to YSU, while Cejudo attended junior college in Walnut, California at Mt. San Antonio College. It wouldn’t be long, however, before the dynamic duo would be reunited as Penguins.
Cejudo transferred to YSU as a junior and his road to Youngstown was paved by the persistence of Gibbs.
“Getting Joey to come to YSU from his junior college was very important to me,” Gibbs said. “Knowing how important a long snapper is to a kicker or punter’s success, I wanted to make sure he had the best opportunity to succeed.”
His prior relationship with Gibbs helped Cejudo make his final decision.
“[Playing with Gibbs again] was a big selling point in my decision to come to YSU,” Cejudo explained. “I am extremely happy where I am today and wouldn’t want to be with any other long snapper.”
YSU head coach Eric Wolford feels that his special teams tandem doesn’t always get the credit they deserve.
“Nathan Gibbs played a big part in helping us get Cejudo here,” Wolford said. “[Gibbs] is kind of like an unsung hero because he never really gets recognized until he does something wrong, and Cejudo is a kicker — he gets one shot at it and doesn’t have second and third down to make up for a mistake.”
Working so closely has helped them develop a strong friendship both on and off the field.
“Being together for the past eight years definitely gives us a great deal of chemistry both on and off the field — whether its our operation times on the field or playing video games, we pretty much know what the other is thinking,” Gibbs said. “It’s something people talk about and many want to achieve, but not all have the opportunity to work together this long to obtain this chemistry.”
Cejudo said trusting his teammates is of paramount importance as a kicker.
“As a kicker, I need to trust my long snapper that he will do his job so I can do mine and with Nate that is the least of my worries,” Cejudo said. “I would say Nate has messed up twice with me, and we have had over 500 snaps together; I’m never worried about him.”
When the occasional mistake does happen, neither teammate points the finger at the other.
“I do try my best to show [Gibbs] love after every kick, though, make or miss,” Cejudo said. “I tend to run off the field nice and slow next to him, to show that there is no me without him.”