The Back Page's Athlete of 2011, Round 1: Winters v. Gibbons

Published by Robert S Samuels and Scott A. Sherman on January 10, 2012 at 3:12AM

2011 was a big year in Harvard athletics. Women’s soccer captured its third Ivy League championship in four years. The men’s basketball team took home a share of the Ancient Eight title and entered the nation’s Top 25, both firsts in program history. Football set a modern-era program record for points in a season, scoring 374 points en route to a 9-1 finish and a league crown. Four other teams—men’s fencing, men’s heavyweight and lightweight crew, and softball—also finished 2011 on top of the Ivy League standings.

There were a number of standout individual performances as well. Women’s fencer Alexandra Kiefer captured the NCAA Foil Individual title. Men’s basketball forward Keith Wright became just the second player in Harvard history to take home Ivy League Player of the Year honors. Women’s soccer and lacrosse captain Melanie Baskind was named to the First Team All-Ivy in two different sports and was selected as the Ivy League Player of the Year in soccer.

We at The Back Page have taken on the tall task of determining the best Harvard athlete of 2011. Here’s how it will go down: we’ve selected 16 standout Harvard athletes—eight male and eight female—and set up two single elimination brackets. Each round, Harvard’s finest will square off in head-to-head matchups. And based on their performances in 2011, we will determine who advances and who is eliminated until just one male and one female remain. Then, the two champs will square off to determine the top Harvard athlete of 2011.

After examining the matchup between Keith Wright and Matt Jones yesterday, we now turn to a faceoff between football’s Collier Winters and lacrosse’s Dean Gibbons. Check back next week to see the winners of the first-round matchups.

Quarterback Collier Winters—1594 passing yards, 273 rushing yards, 13 touchdown passes, four interceptions

The 2011 season couldn’t have started much worse for senior quarterback Collier Winters. In a 30-22 season-opening loss to Holy Cross, Winters threw two interceptions and suffered an injury that caused him to miss the next month. But after returning for the Crimson’s sixth contest, Winters led a march through the record books. In his first game back, the senior became just the third Harvard gunslinger ever to throw for 400 or more yards in a single contest, and the third to throw five touchdowns in a single game.

The following week, Winters showed his versatility, running for 126 yards in a snow storm against Dartmouth. A dual threat, he continued to terrorize opposing defenses the rest of the way, playing a key role in Harvard’s breaking the modern-era points record and eventually winning the league crown.

In all, despite an injury-shortened, six-game season, Winters threw for 1594 yards, ran for another 273, and completed a remarkable 68.6 percent of his passes en route to a second-team All-Ivy selection.

Attackman Dean Gibbons—30 goals, 29 assists, 59 points

After being named an Inside Lacrosse preseason All-America honorable mention, big things were expected out of Dean Gibbons heading into the 2011 season. And Harvard’s co-captain lived up to, and even eclipsed, those prognostications, being named a midseason All-American by Inside Lacrosse and later leading the Crimson to the Ancient Eight championship game and a No. 15 ranking in the USILA final poll.

In the process, the lefty attackman was a unanimous selection to the All-Ivy first team and was named to the NEILA All-New England first squad as well. He started all 16 games for Harvard, amassing a team-leading 59 points—the ninth most in a season in Crimson history—and was second in the Ivy League and seventh in the nation in points per game (3.69). And Gibbons was at his best when it mattered most. Of his 30 goals, five came in important late-season wins over No. 14 Yale on Senior Day and No. 15 Penn in the Ivy tournament’s first round. Gibbons finished his illustrious career ninth on the Crimson’s all-time scoring list with 155 points and 11th in assists with 63.