A longtime New Jersey high school teacher and football coach died early Tuesday of complications from an emergency medical procedure, the district superintendent wrote in a letter to families and community members acknowledging the loss.
Drew Gibbs was 59 years old. The Ramapo High School teacher and coach was taken to a hospital after suffering chest pains at football practice Monday, his family told NJ.com. A CAT scan showed a tear in his aortic valve and he underwent surgery to repair it, NJ.com said. He died of complications related to that surgery.
"Coach Gibbs was a respected and beloved faculty member and a pillar in our community who commanded respect from everyone. He was a fierce competitor and a polite, kind gentleman who was always a class act," Ramapo Indian Hills Regional High School District Superintendent Dr. Rui Dionisio wrote in the letter.
"We are saddened by the loss to our school community and will make every effort to help you and your child as you need. Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and loved ones," Dionisio added. "Please join me in offering our thoughts and prayers to the Gibbs family in their time of sorrow."
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Crisis counselors and additional support are being made available districtwide. The nearby Wyckoff School District also sent a letter to families about the loss of Gibbs and said it would make bereavement support available to anyone in need as well.
Gibbs was one of the most successful high school coaches in New Jersey, helming a Ramapo team that won seven sectional titles in 21 seasons as well as the last two regional championships, NJ.com said. His all-time record was 183-51 as Ramapo's head coach -- and his team had only lost three games in the last four seasons.
"Doing it with him was the best thing that could ever happen to me. I love him, he's the best, just the best," said Gibbs' son, Brian, who joined his dad's staff as an assistant coach eight years ago. "That's why I did it, because I got to be with my dad everyday."
Brian Gibbs went on to say that his father "loved every single kid he coached" and took pride in teaching the players "how to work, he taught the kids how to do the right thing. One of the best to ever do it, one of the best people you'll ever meet and my hero."
Former NFL wide receiver Chris Hogan, who was in the league for 10 years and won two Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, played for Gibbs team while at Ramapo High School, calling him "an unbelievable coach, who cared about everyone on his teams no matter how big or small their role was.
"He took young men and taught them how to play a game he loved the right way and gave them lessons we all could carry throughout our lives," Hogan said in a message to NBC New York. "Ramapo football was and is Drew Gibbs and I know his legacy will continue to love on in that program for a very long time."
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association acknowledged his contributions in a statement mourning his passing on Tuesday.
"Today, New Jersey scholastic sports lost a true legend," it said. "We are deeply saddened by the passing of Ramapo High School’s Head Football Coach Drew Gibbs. He was an educator, a mentor, and a role model, and our condolences go out to all who knew, loved, and were inspired by Coach Gibbs."
Rutgers head coach, Greg Schiano, who briefly served as head coach of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, also offered his condolences to the family and friends of his New Jersey colleague, calling him a "great husband, father, coach and friend."
"Coach Gibbs was a champion who helped countless young men reach their full potential in life," Schiano tweeted. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Coach Gibbs, his family and the Ramapo community."
Funeral arrangements for Gibbs have not been announced.
The team is scheduled to play a championship game against Northern Highlands on Friday.