2022-23 Kevin Higgins College Scholarship Program Recipient: Gibbs Kell
“Rugby gave me a purpose that no other sport has given me. It has given me a strong community that I have not experienced while playing sports before. I was able to make so many friends through rugby and it really became like a brotherhood,” said Gibbs Kell.
Kell began to play rugby for the Little Rock Stormers in the summer leading up to his freshman year in high school. Momentum for the high school team was building and he helped recruit enough players for the Stormers to compete in 15s matches the following season. While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed progress for the Stormers, he maintained his strength and fitness and continued to develop his rugby IQ to prepare for upcoming seasons. During his junior and senior seasons, he served as team captain for the Stormers and was awarded Man of the Match on several occasions. He was named Most Valuable Player for the 2021 season. He began to elevate his play by training with the Stormers Men’s side and appearing in matches for them during the 2022 season.
He also competed for the USA South Panther Academy in both 7s and 15s and was a member of the Panthers’ 2022 U18 Open Championship team at the Tropical 7’s in Tampa, Florida and the 2022 U19 Rugby Americas North Championship team in Kingston, Jamaica. Gibbs tried out and made the U18 Rugby ATL Academy 15s side which competed in Austin, TX against the U18 Academy sides from the Houston Saber Cats, San Diego Legion, and Austin Gilgronis.
“Gibbs not only stands out as a skilled player on our team, but he also commands the respect of our competitors. He was awarded “Man of the Match” during our season opener against Dallas Athletic Rugby Club. Gibbs is easy to coach. He is a respectful young man and eager to learn as much as possible to improve his skills. He is always the first in line for a new drill and first to pick up on the concept I am trying to coach. He asks informed questions when prompted and has become a silent leader to men who are 10 and 15 years older than him. It is a testament to Gibbs’s character that he has not faltered in his original commitment to the Junior Stormers Team,” said Laura Cabrera, Little Rock Stormers Men’s Rugby Head Coach.
Gibbs graduated from Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, Arkansas with a 3.94 GPA. He finished his high school career placing 16th in his class and in the top 10% of the 2022 graduating class. In addition to rugby, he competed in football and was a member of the Arkansas State Championship team in 2019. He also competed in track and field and was a member of the 4x8 relay and earned a conference championship title in pole vault. As a member of the National Honor Society and the Beta Club, he was an active volunteer at the Stew Pot in Little Rock helping feed people in need. In the summer of 2021, he was selected to attend Arkansas Boys State online and Arkansas Governor's School at Arkansas Tech University, where he interacted in an immersive civics education and leadership experience and expanded his knowledge in disciplines that included psychology, geography, and sociology.
Kell will continue his academic and rugby career at the University of Arkansas. He will major in architecture and intends to pursue a master’s degree. He hopes to enter the design world and specialize in sports stadiums and facilities. He would love to incorporate his love for rugby with a career in architecture by developing MLR stadiums and facilities in the future. While competing for the Razorbacks, Gibbs is determined to grow the club’s social media presence for recruiting purposes and hopes to increase the club’s funding though merchandise sales and engaging alumni support.
“Gibbs is fitting in well at the University of Arkansas. As an incoming freshman, I have been impressed with his skill level and level of commitment. He has fitted in perfectly in the starting line up as outside center and never misses a practice. He is mentally tough and plays hard. He is well liked by his teammates and is a perfect team player, always placing the team above himself. He has already taken on a leadership role with the club, volunteering to serve on the Club's Executive Officer Board as the social media chair. He has taken this role under his wing and is already making improvements to our presence on social media platforms,” said Warren Fyfe, University of Arkansas Rugby Head Coach.