JD Gibbs: 2019 Young Life Posthumous Alumni Achievement Award

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​JD Gibbs moved to Northern Virginia in 1981, when his father (Joe) accepted the role of head coach for the Washington Redskins. In order to pursue his own love of football, JD transferred from Bethlehem Baptist Christian Academy to Oakton High School in Vienna, Virginia, in 1985, and became the starting quarterback for the varsity football team as a sophomore. It was during this season that he was introduced to Young Life, often hosting club at his house. In the words of longtime friend, Moose Valliere, “Because of JD’s personality and charisma, the biggest clubs were often at JD’s house; in fact, the only reason I decided to visit Young Life was because it was going to be at JD’s house. If it was OK for JD to go to Young Life, then Young Life was OK for me! I trusted JD that much.” In the same vein, Dave Alpern, lifelong friend and current president of Joe Gibb’s Racing, said, “Arguably the most popular kid in our high school, JD would show up in the cafeteria and randomly sit at different tables, usually with the less popular kids, with his signature smile and a ‘Hi, I’m JD.’ It made the kids who needed it most feel valued and important. I know because I was one of those kids.” Similarly, Rick Beckwith, JD’s Young Life leader, remembers, “From the first time I met JD, I was struck by his humble spirit and his desire to put others before himself. In the midst of a rowdy football culture, JD stood up and chose to live righteously rather than blend in with the crowd. This multiplied his witness a hundredfold.”JD Moose and Guys.jpg

Following high school, JD attended the College of William & Mary, where he played football. Upon 
college graduation, he moved to Charlotte and co-founded Joe Gibbs Racing with his father. In the midst of all of this, JD became a volunteer Young Life leader for a few years, until recruiting his longtime friend, Moose Valliere, to come and start a new Young Life area in Norman, North Carolina. JD was on committee in this area until the day he got too sick to continue serving.

Professionally, JD treated his business career much the same as he did the rest of his life: building others up and using his influence to point people to Jesus. JD had a gift of treating people like a soul rather than a transaction. As Joe Gibbs Racing grew from a start-up family business with barely a dozen employees, to a world-class championship sports organization with nearly 600, JD never changed. Everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing knew that an interaction with JD was going to include a laugh, probably a bear hug and a meaningful exchange about something significant to that person. Many executives talk about priorities in their life, and “work-life balance;” JD Gibbs modeled it. From overseeing a giving ministry that sends funds to over 75 organizations in over 50 countries, to mobilizing a team of in-house chaplains to do “contact work” inside of Joe Gibbs Racing, JD knew how to treat his business as his ministry. Throughout, Young Life remained dear to JD’s heart, as he chaired the local committee, hosted countless Young Life banquets and events at the team headquarters, and even turned the Joe Gibbs Racing Christmas party into a Young Life club!

Most importantly, JD knew his primary ministry was to his boys (Jackson, Miller, Jason and Taylor) and his wife; and he was exceptional with both. JD married Melissa, his middle school sweetheart, in 1993 and, according to Moose Valliere, “As a parent, JD was THERE for his kids and his wife. In the crazy world of pro sports when the job is the ‘end all, be all,’ JD always did his best to step away and be with his family.”

JD Moose and Rick.jpgUnfortunately, JD started showing symptoms of a neurological problem in 2014; he had a degenerative brain disease that was incurable. The news hit everyone hard. JD passed away on January 11, 2019, at the age of 49, and his impact was clearly seen at his funeral. Thousands attended to pay their respects, from old friends, to the NASCAR family, to Redskins players and coaches. It was a service befitting a man of God, whose life’s work was blessed by a gracious God. JD’s dream was to help Windy Gap and to bring Young life to every kid in the Charlotte Metro area, focusing on hard-to-fund schools, YoungLives and Capernaum. In his memory, the JD Gibbs Legacy Foundation was born in January 2019. Since JD’s death over $1 million has been raised. What a legacy!

Dave Alpern (high school friend and president of Joe Gibbs Racing), shared the following words at JD’s funeral service. “Every Monday morning a small group of us in the front office would pray. We prayed for many of you in this room and that time was sacred to JD. As JD’s illness spread, his prayers got simpler. But even towards the end, when he was still able to come in to work, when it was JD’s turn to pray, he would repeat, over and over again in his weakened voice ‘I love you Lord, with all my heart, all my mind, all my soul and all my strength.’ JD’s heart summarized in a childlike prayer.”

We are privileged to honor JD Gibbs as our 2019 Young Life Posthumous Alumni Achievement Award Recipient.