Is someone going to help Arik Gilbert?
Not that long ago, Gilbert was being discussed as a gifted athlete with the potential to become one of the greatest tight ends of all time. Now, he is busting out vape shop windows in Nebraska. His story has gone from one of immense hope to seething ridicule and now confusion and concern. Gilbert has become yet another tale of what could have been.
The latest chapter in Gilbert’s sad story occurred on Tuesday.
Gilbert was arrested early Tuesday morning on a felony burglary charge in Lincoln, Nebraska. The current University of Nebraska tight end is accused of burglarizing a liquor and vape shop and attempting to steal more than $1,600 worth of merchandise, including cigars and vape pens.
Video from the store’s surveillance camera shows a man breaking into the store by kicking down doors. The man, allegedly Gilbert, is then confronted by police on his way out of the store and arrested.
Gilbert’s football future is now in serious jeopardy.
He transferred to the University of Nebraska in January but hasn’t been cleared to play due to him having already used his one-time transfer exemption. Gilbert has been in limbo waiting on the NCAA to grant him a waiver to play — that will likely now not happen.
No one believed this was where the Marietta, Georgia native would be when he arrived on campus at LSU three years ago.
The 6-foot-5, 249-pound Gilbert was the Gatorade National Player of the Year and the jewel of Ed Orgeron’s recruiting class, having snagged him away from Georgia and Alabama. Gilbert arrived with plenty of hype and seemed poised to go down in Tiger lore alongside other highly touted prospects Leonard Fournette and Derek Stingley.
In a forgettable season filled with player opt-outs and lopsided losses, a bright spot was the play of Gilbert, who hauled in 35 passes for 368 yards. But red flags began to pop up with whispers that Gilbert was “homesick” and that his focus was not exactly consistent, as he would sometimes dominate practice and then other times not be dressed.
With two games left in the season, Gilbert opted out and left the program. He entered the NCAA Transfer Portal and eventually chose Florida as his next destination but a month later he changed his mind. He eventually committed to play for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Even playing close to home, the red flags would continue to pop up.
Gilbert left the team in the middle of fall camp for what UGA coach Kirby Smart described vaguely as “personal issues.” He would return to the team for the 2022 season and the hope was that Gilbert could thrive in offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s two tight end schemes.
Yet, whether it was a year away from football or playing behind the country’s best tight end Brock Bowers, Gilbert appeared in only three games catching two passes for 16 yards before leaving the team for “personal issues” again.
Gilbert had become the poster boy for what was all wrong with the NCAA Transfer Portal.
A talented player but one who quit on multiple teams, and then struggled multiple times to make up his mind on where he wanted to play. For many, Gilbert was the epitome of the modern entitled athlete, one who lacked commitment and respect for the game.
The transfer to Nebraska seemed like a last-ditch effort to salvage a once-promising career but that likely ended shortly before 2 a.m. on Tuesday. The concern and focus shouldn’t be on his career, but about helping the young man.
Someone has to step up and truly help Gilbert. Get him the help he so desperately needs as shown over and over again with his behavior.
I have no idea what that specific help he needs.
Is it a mental health issue? Is it a substance abuse issue? Is it a combination of both or something else? Who knows, but what is certain is that he needs help — real help. The type of help that takes mental and spiritual fortitude by not only Gilbert but also those people around him — parents, family, and mentors.
Gilbert’s story so far is one of massive disappointment and sadness, but it could easily transform into a devastating cautionary tale. Let’s hope Gilbert gets and accepts the help needed to make sure that isn’t the next chapter written in his life story.
Raymond Partsch III is the co-host of “RP3, D-Loh & Meche” which is broadcast weekdays (11-1) on ESPN 103.7 Lafayette and 104.1 Lake Charles — Southwest Louisiana’s Sports Station.