Gibbs ended its two-week search for a new head football coach on Tuesday when it announced Ja'Vonta Trotter would replace Antonio Knox. Trotter, 28, is a 2008 Boca Ciega grad who played wide receiver at Murray State. Most recently he was an assistant coach at Murray State last season before moving back to St. Petersburg.
"Honestly, this time yesterday I wasn't even thinking about coaching," Trotter said. "A friend told me about the job, so I applied, but I didn't think I would get it. It's very exciting to be back coaching again."
Trotter has his work cut out. Because Knox resigned so soon before preseason practices began, Gibbs had to scramble to find qualified applicants. On Monday, the team had its first practice without an official head coach.
Today will be the first day Trotter has met his new team and most of the staff. He said he will likely add a few more coaches to the staff before the first preseason game on Aug. 24 vs. Tampa Catholic.
"We've got to come up with a plan," Trotter said. "It will be a challenge. But the team, especially the seniors who had no idea who their coach would be in their last season, deserve the best."
The coaching search was put into overdrive this past week. Gibbs principal Reuben Hepburn and athletic director Mike Machado worked through the weekend trying to find a worthy coach. They were finally able to make a decision on Tuesday morning.
"I can't tell you how excited we are to have Ja'Vonta with us," Machado said. "I knew right when we interviewed him, unless Tony Dungy walks through the door, this is our guy."
Gibbs has not had much success lately. The Gladiators were 2-8 under Knox last season. Their last winning season was in 2015, when they were 6-5 under Jon Thompson.
The schedule is difficult this season. Aside from the normal district games, which include rival Lakewood, Gibbs plays perennial powers Charlotte, Lakeland and Lake Gibson.
Trotter will be Gibbs' sixth head coach since 2008 (Yusuf Shakir, Donnie Abraham, Antonio Knox (twice), Rick Kravitz, Thompson and Trotter). This will be Trotter's first head coaching job. He said he hopes to land a teaching spot at the school, but as of yet is not a teacher at Gibbs.