By Mark Schremmer
Posted: July 28, 2012 - 11:46 AM
Playing in the 39th annual Kansas Shrine Bowl will be extra special for Emporia Spartans running back Derek Gifford.
Not only will Gifford get to play in front of his hometown crowd, he also will have a chance to give Emporia State Hornets fans a taste of what is to come.
Gifford, an All-State running back with the Spartans who rushed for 1,675 yards and 22 touchdowns his senior season, has decided to continue his football career at Emporia State University.
The Shrine Bowl will be played July 28 at Emporia State’s Welch Stadium.
Gifford said it will be a nice way to end his high school career and transition to his college career.
“It will be an honor to play in front of the hometown crowd and everything,” Gifford said. “It will be nice to have the support.”
Gifford was named a first-team All Class 5A selection at running back by The Topeka Capital Journal, and received honorable mention recognition by The Wichita Eagle.
“He’s a really hard worker,” Emporia High School coach Dustin Delaney said. “He was a quiet leader who really brought toughness and tenacity to our team.”
He rushed for 1,675 yards and 22 touchdowns this season in leading the Spartans to the 5A quarterfinals. Gifford also received first-team All Centennial League honors at running back.
“He’s a kid who gets stronger as the game goes on,” Delaney said. “He runs through tacklers.”
While Gifford starred as a running back for the Spartans, he is fine with the possibility of moving to defense at Emporia State. The Hornets could consider him at outside linebacker or safety.
“I’m going to start on the offensive side, but they may move me later on,” Gifford said. “It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m willing to do whatever I can to help the team.”
Gifford’s teammates at Emporia High plan on being at the Shrine Bowl for support.
“We’re going to tailgate with the whole team out there,” Delaney said.