Gopher football players spend summer working at Como Zoo

When the University of Minnesota’s director of player development advertised summer jobs with St. Paul Parks and Recreation, two Gopher football players jumped at the opportunity. 

U of M defensive linemen Jerry Gibson and Winston DeLattiboudere are soaking up the benefits of their first time working alongside animals - zebras, giraffes and more.

“I think they are black with white stripes,” said Gibson. “Some people say white with black stripes, who knows - it’s a zebra. They are just real chill animals.”

“I was like, I want to do something new this summer, expose myself to different things,” said DeLattiboudere.

Three days a week, the 6' 3'' friends patrol the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. Equally as important, they act as ambassadors answering questions and helping people any way they can. 

“Having a connection with the kids is a good thing, as well,” said DeLattiboudere. “I know we look like we are big scary dudes walking up on a little kid, but we got big, soft hearts. As soon as they see that they are warm towards us.”

While Gibson has worked security at TCF Bank before, for DeLattiboudere it’s all new, while juggling an online class and summer workouts. They both agree there are similar responsibilities in their different uniforms. 

“As far if they need help finding a missing kid or different things like that, it’s just the communication aspect because on a team you have to communicate calls - stadiums with 100,000 people - so communication is always key,” said DeLattiboudere.

Rarely are they recognized, which both say is a bonus. 

“You get to kind of step away from football and be a regular human being and provide a service for people,” said Gibson. “So that’s another refreshing feeling you have.”

It's clear both love the interaction they have with thousands of people and it's fair to say they believe this summer job, as Coach PJ Fleck might say, is “elite.”

“We don’t like to brag, but we get the coolest days – definitely,” said DeLattiboudere.

Friday marked Winston's last day and Gibson wraps up his time as at the zoo on Sunday. They each will head home to visit family before football practices start in August.