Gibbs played goalie at N.C. State

Of all the education and experience that Robert Gibbs has amassed to become President-elect Obama's communications director, perhaps one of his most important came on the soccer field at N.C. State University.

There, Gibbs played goalkeeper for three years, from 1990 to 1992, defending whatever came flying in his direction and remembered – like all goalkeepers – more for the misses than the saves.

“To be a goalkeeper, you have to be a very special person,” Gibbs' former coach, George Tarantini, said Thursday. “People remember only the goals. No one remembers how many saves you make.”

Sounds a little like standing at a podium in the White House briefing room, fending off reporters.

Though it isn't yet official, Gibbs is expected to be the new public face of the White House for Obama, a job that would have him conducting daily briefings with reporters and explaining presidential policies.

Gibbs, 37, joined Obama before the president-elect ran for U.S. Senate and has been with him ever since. He's one of Obama's traveling companions and a longtime confidante.

Gibbs was introduced to politics at a young age, said his father, also named Robert Gibbs.

As a boy growing up in Auburn, Ala., the younger Gibbs – then known as Bobby – and his brother were toted around the state with their mother, Nancy, who was active in the League of Women Voters. Later, Bobby Gibbs sat on the high school debate team.

“He was loquacious,” recalled the elder Gibbs, who now lives in Apex. For now, Gibbs' parents are just very proud of their son.

“Would you believe I talked with him by phone yesterday, and he'd lost his voice?” laughed Robert Gibbs. “I told him yesterday he's done such a good job.”