Celebrity Spotlight: Joe Gibbs

Coach Defiance: Three-Time Super Bowl Champion Joe Gibbs Is Helping Others Defy Diabetes

Joe Gibbs knows how to win. As an NFL head coach, he led the Washington Redskins to four NFC titles and three Super Bowl championships. And since becoming a NASCAR team owner and launching Joe Gibbs Racing, he’s won three NASCAR Cup Series Championships, one with driver Bobby Labonte and two more with Tony Stewart.

Today, this Pro Football Hall of Fame coach is taking his winning attitude in a new direction by raising awareness about diabetes, a disease that Gibbs has managed successfully for more than two decades. MyHealth recently talked to Coach Gibbs about how diabetes has affected his life and his passion to help the almost 26 million Americans who have the disease.

When did you find out you had diabetes?

It was during the 1991 football season. Being an NFL head coach is an incredibly demanding job. I was putting in long hours of work and only getting four or five hours of sleep each night. I wasn’t eating well either. Near the end of the season, I had just finished running on a treadmill when I noticed my legs were tingling from the knees down. When the season was over, I consulted some doctors and found out I was pre-diabetic. I tried for about 18 months to get my blood sugar under control, but eventually I had to go on insulin.

What was your reaction to the diagnosis?

I really kind of panicked. I had an uncle who died early because of his diabetes. I knew I had to get serious about managing the disease.

So how do you keep your diabetes under control?

I tell people that managing diabetes is a lot like taking care of a racecar. If you’re not committed to doing the necessary maintenance, neither the car nor your body is going to keep running for very long. That’s the reason I test myself six to eight times each day. I watch my diet. I stay fit and exercise. For the past 22 years, I’ve really had to commit myself to stay healthy and defy diabetes. It’s a day-to-day journey, and a real challenge.

You recently announced your involvement with Defy Diabetes. Tell us about that. 

This is something I’m really excited about. Defy Diabetes is a movement that’s connecting people with the support and resources they need to understand both diabetes and prediabetes and to defy the disease. Through social media and local events, Defy Diabetes is serving as a voice of encouragement and a community of support. We’re encouraging better and healthier menu options at restaurants and working to develop mobile apps that give people more control over their diet. As part of the campaign, I’m also working with physicians to develop a series of “Coach’s Corner” videos to inform and motivate others to defy diabetes. You can learn more at


Why are you so passionate about this cause?

Diabetes in this country is an epidemic. If we don’t take action, half of all Americans will be diabetic or prediabetic in just seven years. Having lived with Type 2 diabetes for more than 20 years, I know firsthand how important this issue can be in a person’s life. It’s time we took action.