Aaron Gibson weighed 480 pounds, but a life of lingering pain—and pill-popping, and the disappointment of the NFL—weighed on him heavier than that. Then came love. Then 30,000 calories a day turned into 1,500 sit-ups—and abs.
By Joon Lee
July 27, 2017
Aaron Gibson recently lost a toe. His left big toe.
A blue-chip prospect out of Wisconsin, Gibson was once the heaviest player in NFL history, officially weighing in at 410 pounds in 2002 with the Dallas Cowboys. The Detroit Lions drafted him 27th overall in 1999, trading three draft picks to the Miami Dolphins to move up 12 spots to select the guy Sports Illustrated deemed “the prototype for the gargantuan linemen of the 21st century.” Of course, all of that was before two shoulder injuries left him a fraction of who he once was and derailed a career that ended after 38 games in six seasons, his last in 2004.
Gibson had thought for years that his overeating could lead to gout or diabetes, knowing that a loss of a toe could come with them. But instead the culprit was a poisonous spider bite, the bug finding a way into his shoe during a day working on the backyard koi pond. As the flesh on his left big toe started dissolving, revealing tendons and, soon, bone, Gibson figured this wasn’t gout.
The bite looked like a bull’s-eye, black in the middle, red and then white. Seventeen days after the swelling started, Aaron, 39, lying in bed, felt a sharp, overwhelming pain in his left hip. His wife Brigitte Gibson abandoned her Costco trip that day to take him to the hospital, where doctors said he needed emergency surgery. His toe had gotten infected from the bite, and the infection had spread to his hip.