MISSION — Before he put up gaudy numbers as a high-schooler, Landry Gilpin grew up around football; he wasn’t much of a football player, however, at that time.
A former peewee football coach of Gilpin’s reminded him as much after a pep rally this season.
“He told me, ‘I coached you when you were with the (peewee) Patriots.’ When I was with those Patriots, I wasn’t a football player,” Gilpin said. “I was out there because I felt like that’s where I was supposed to be, but I wasn’t talented or had any assets to contribute to the team. I was on the bench most of the time.”
Gilpin didn’t have to look very far to find the biggest motivators to keep up with football.
“I watched my brother, Jonathan (Gilpin), a lot growing up,” Gilpin said. “I saw the way he and my dad bonded when my dad coached him as a wide receiver. They took it so seriously that I thought, ‘Man, those are my two role models. I want to be just like them and do everything just like they do.’
“The year after peewee, I didn’t want to be average anymore. I let my brother and dad work with me a little bit and I got better. I became more aware of what football was and what I needed to do to be a good player.”
Gilpin wrapped up a sensational season as The Monitor’s All-Area Player of the Year for the second year in a row. With the advantage of hindsight, Gilpin’s strong 2017 season now appears pedestrian compared to his 2018.
He threw for 4,544 passing yards and 50 touchdowns, which tied the single-season Valley record for passing TDs. Former Mission High quarterback Lupe Rodriguez, who was Gilpin’s former offensive coordinator at Mission Veterans before leading the PSJA High program, put up 50 passing touchdowns back in 1987.
The passing numbers are jaw-dropping on its own, but his rushing numbers were out of a video game, as well. Gilpin ran for 2,112 yards and 32 touchdowns on the ground.
His special individual season helped the Patriots (12-2) crash into the fourth round of the playoffs for the first time in the program’s history and put the rest of the state on notice.
In addition to earning his second All-Area Player of the Year Award in two seasons, Gilpin was selected as the 2018 Mr. Texas Football Player of the Year by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine Dec. 17. Two days later, the Texas Associated Press Sports Editors picked Gilpin as the state’s Class 5A Offensive Player of the Year in 2018.
“Initially, I didn’t know how it was all going to pan out because we had a lot of new guys in different positions,” Gilpin said. “Once I saw the guys that we had at receiver, the weapons we had in the backfield and our o-line working in sync with us, I knew it was going to be a special year. The guys came out, tore things up and shocked a lot of people.”
Gilpin is now the sole owner of several program bests. His 6,656 yards of total offense this season outdid the previous record which Gilpin set in 2017 (4,890 yards of total offense).
No other Patriot has thrown for more yards in a career (9,366), thrown more passing touchdowns in a career (87), ran for more yards in a career (4,817), rushed for more touchdowns in a career (68) or accounted for more yardage as a passer, runner, receiver and returner than Landry Gilpin (15,277).
“We knew he was an athlete. The question was: ‘Could Landry be the type of passer that (2016 quarterback) Diego Hernandez was after Diego graduated?’ I think he answered that question,” Mission Veterans coach David Gilpin said. “He’s not a pure pocket passer like Diego was. He’s the kind of quarterback that could get out on the edge if things broke down. I don’t really know what to say about No. 12 (Landry’s jersey number) anymore other than he’s one of the best ever. He deserves every accolade he’s gotten. He’s a special player.”
When the UIL released its realignment configuration beginning with the 2018-19 football season, David Gilpin felt confident about where his team stood in Region IV’s new Class 5A Division I.
He didn’t believe the region had what he called a “big, bad wolf,” a clear dominant team that would prevent his Patriots from winning a regional championship in December.
The Patriots did not win a regional title, but they were the last Valley team standing in the 2018 UIL state playoffs Dec. 8. The Patriots’ historic season would not have been possible without the vision of David Gilpin, who was named The Monitor’s All-Area Coach of the Year for the first time in his 10-year head coaching career.
“I believe this (All-Area Coach of the Year) award is a program award,” David Gilpin said. “This is a reflection of our program. It’s as simple as that. This isn’t me doing ‘coach talk.’ This is the absolute truth. While I’m proud of the job that I do, I am just as proud of our assistant coaches, our coordinators, our starters all the way to our third-stringers. Everyone has to buy in to what we do and that’s what we have in our program. That is what makes this so rewarding as a head coach. It’s exciting to win an award like this and I accept it on behalf of our football team.”
What David Gilpin asked of his players and coaching staff had never been done in Mission Veterans’ history: Winning a district championship, a bi-district round victory, an area round victory, a regional semifinal round victory and a regional title all in the same season.
While San Antonio Wagner’s 54-21 win in the Region IV-5A DI final ended the Patriots’ season in San Antonio, Mission Veterans became the fourth Class 5A Valley school or bigger to compete in the fourth round of the playoffs since 1990. The Patriots joined a class that includes the 2011 Harlingen High Cardinals, the 1999 Edinburg High Bobcats and the 1990 Mission High Eagles.
“When realignment hit in February, we looked at our draw,” David Gilpin said. “I didn’t think there was a big, bad wolf in our region back then, but we learned (San Antonio) Wagner became the big, bad wolf. But we won four gold balls and were an undefeated district champion. Our kids had no ‘give up’ in them with our guys going up against their big guys. We matched what every other Valley team has done in the playoffs, except for the 1961 Donna (High) Redskins. Valley high school football has been around for over 100 years and our school has been around for only 17 years. This was a great accomplishment.”
“Putting on this (Mission Veterans) uniform is special because you know everybody doesn’t get to do this,” the younger Gilpin said. “It meant a lot because you knew the guys and the coaches that were with you wanted to be with you. They’re willing to do anything for you because you’re willing to do anything for them. They’re going to be in my memories forever and in Valley history forever. I advise any underclassman that’s in our junior high or high school system to do whatever they can to be a part of this football team. The lessons you learn here will carry on for the rest of your life. It’s life-changing.”