FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – 6’3,” 315-pound defensive lineman Gavriel Lightfoot is a surprisingly nimble athlete for his size.
“I shouldn’t be able to do the things I do,” says Lightfoot.
Growing up, he played sports like tennis, soccer and basketball, which helped develop him as an all-around athlete.
“My parents, my grandparents, kept me active, outside, so I like to do everything,” he said. “I was never really one to be on the game system, none of that. I wanted to go outside and do something.”
It did not take him long to “do something” at Fresno State, where, last season, he became the first true freshman to start on the interior defensive line for the Bulldogs since 1997. And at only 17 years old, he was the youngest player in the FBS to see the field during Week One.
“It was a great experience, got a lot of playing time last season,” says Lightfoot. “I was working all fall camp, working for the (starting) spot.”
One of his teammates saw the potential right away last season.
“Going through training camp,” says returning senior linebacker Raymond Scott. “We kind of knew he was gonna be a big factor, just being a big guy. He had the size, the athleticism, so we knew he was gonna be a big factor going into his first season.”
Despite missing some time with injuries, Gavriel Lightfoot ended up playing in eleven games for the Bulldogs. He finished with nine tackles, a couple of tackles for loss and one sack.
Playing right away impressed his position coach with the Bulldogs, former Fresno State defensive lineman Jethro Franklin.
“(Lightfoot) actually started as a 17-year-old in major college football, so that’s pretty special,” said Franklin after a recent practice.
And Franklin is expecting even more growth from his talented pupil in Year Two.
“You know, he now has experience because he played all those games,” says Franklin. “And so he can relate a little bit more to what I’m talking about.”
Jethro Franklin has a lot of knowledge to pass along.
Franklin set the school record for sacks with the Bulldogs in 1986, and has more than three decades of experience as a coach at both the college and professional levels.
Franklin preaches effort and competing, and Lightfoot is doing both…both on and off the field.
“He’s a 4.0 student,” beamed Franklin. “He’s doing great things off the field, in the classroom, and those things that I talk about earlier, the effort and the (ability to) compete. I mean, he’s doing it off the field. He’s doing it in the classroom. He’s doing everything that we ask him to do. You talk about my philosophy, he’s doing those things.”
Gavriel Lightfoot came to Fresno State from Centennial High School, a southern California prep powerhouse in Corona. And the Bulldogs added another Centennial alum this offseason, linebacker Tuasivi Nomura, who transferred from USC.