North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.
A 12-year NFL veteran, Gash made history in 1999 even though his accomplishment isn’t listed in any record book. While playing for the Buffalo Bills, the Hendersonville native became the first back in league history to be selected to the Pro Bowl without having carried the ball during the regular season. That’s a testament to how respected he was as a hard-hitting fullback.
Gash, an eighth-round draft choice by the New England Patriots in 1992, was a two-time Pro Bowler who won a Super Bowl championship ring with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000. He gained 327 yards on 121 carries in his career while also catching 169 passes for 1,674 yards and 15 touchdowns.
But it was his prowess as a blocker that helped him become one of the most unsung players in NFL history.
“I was a complementary player, a battering ram,” Gash told the Baltimore Sun in 2007. “I knew it, accepted it and appreciated it. I took joy in blocking a guy, creating a crack in the defense and watching (him) run past for 15 yards. For me, that was like scoring a touchdown.”
As much as Gash reveled in his role, he didn’t set out to become an anonymous worker bee. He rushed for 4,526 yards in three seasons at Hendersonville High School between 1984-86 and was a talented enough runner to have caught the eye of legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno.
He went on to become the lead blocker for stars Blair Thomas and Richie Anderson while earning a reputation as a dependable short-yardage runner with 16 career touchdowns. He was the captain of a 1991 team that went 11-2 and finished the season ranked No. 3 in the nation.
After he retired from the NFL, Gash began a coaching career that saw him serve tenures as an assistant with the New York Giants, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers.