JEFFERSON -- Eric Gipson doesn't have to look far for football advice.

The 2019 Jefferson defensive end just has to ask his father. Charles Gipson was a star defensive end for the Bulldogs in the early 1990s and competed in the state track meets in 1990 and 1991.

Gipson said his father has been there for him throughout his football career.

“He always tells me to give 100 percent whatever I’m doing," Gipson said. "If I’m not doing that, I’m not giving my team my full potential.”

Although Charles Gipson had a few offers to play college football, he turned them down to join the army. His son will likely follow a different route.

Gipson took Defensive MVP at the ETSN/APEC combine on May 20, running a combine-best 4.43 40-yard dash. He also placed in the top 10 in vertical jump (33.5") and pro agility (4.28) drills. He already holds FCS offers from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, McNeese State and Northwestern State with more likely to come. He said Boise State, Texas Tech, Texas State and Louisiana Monroe have also expressed interest.

“Eric probably has more raw talent than anybody around here," coach Antwain Jimmerson said. "His talent is not as refined as (Jefferson receiver) T.Q. (Jackson)'s, but he’s got it. We feel like he’s going to take off. He’s going to be a kid that’s easily going to get to school and gain 20 pounds."

At 6-1, 195 pounds, Gipson is slim for a defensive end. That didn't stop him from racking up 137 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 10 sacks this past season, his first at DE. Despite the success, he projects as a linebacker or safety at the next level and his biggest goal this offseason is adding weight.

Part of his size can be attributed to his unrelenting athletic schedule. In addition to football, Gipson plays basketball and runs track. He also competes in 7-on-7 football and summer league basketball during the offseason. Most days he has little time for weight training.

"I keep myself pretty busy," he said. "It’s hard for me to keep weight on because I play so many sports.”

That should change once he reaches college and football becomes his sole athletic focus. It's part of what makes him such an intriguing prospect. If he adds the weight and retains his speed, he could be a steal.

When Gipson isn't playing football, he is usually riding his horses. He and his father make the drive every day to their barn to feed them. It's a routine they've shared since Gipson was three.

"I’ve grown up around them," he said. "It’s a thing I love. If I’m stressing or anything, that’s probably where you’ll see me. At a barn.”

Jefferson finished 10-2 in 2017, falling in the area round of the playoffs to Farmersville. It was a disappointing end to a season in which the Bulldogs started 8-0.

Jefferson returns plenty of offensive firepower, with its leading receiver, running back and starting quarterback all returning. However, it loses three of its top five tacklers and its interceptions leader.

Because of the turnover, Gipson will be called upon to step into a leadership role.

“He knows how tough it’s going to be," Jimmerson said. "We want to depend on some guys that don’t have a lot of varsity reps. I think that’s going to be the major key for him. Being able to help our other kids come on."

It's a challenge he's willing to accept. In fact, he said leadership is one of the attributes he hopes to bring to a college next fall. Time will tell, but it seems Gipson is trending up with no sign of stopping.

"I always have a positive vibe," he said. "I know how to lead my time in the right direction. When it’s crunch time, you can always lean on me.”

East Texas 25 Class of 2019