When freshman wide receiver Elbre Bernard “Tony” Gaiter IV arrived at FIU this past summer, he made sure to find the equipment managers.
“I made sure they put the ‘IV’ on the back of my jersey,” Gaiter said. “It’s a symbol that, through the generations, we’re trying to make a name for us, keep it going.”
Gaiter, who has missed the past three games for FIU (3-7, 3-3 Conference USA) because of an ankle injury, has played in seven contests, including three starts, compiling 12 catches for 101 yards. He also has two runs for 24 yards but has yet to score.
He is fairly well known locally because he starred in high school at Westminster Christian and because his father was a running back/wide receiver at the University of Miami and in the NFL.
But Gaiter IV, a 5-9, 180-pounder who expects to be back on the field when FIU plays its final home game of the season Nov. 19 against Marshall, is the first one in his family to put Roman numerals on the back of his jersey.
He is also one of the first athletes anywhere to go by “the fourth.” There was Robert Griffin III — aka RG3 — in football.
But an EBG4 is pretty rare.
The original Elbre Bernard Gaiter was an All-American tennis player at Saint Augustine’s University, a historically black college in Raleigh, North Carolina. After college, he taught for 27 years at Miami’s Dorsey High School but died in 1974 at 57 of a liver disease.
His son, Elbre Bernard “Tony” Gaiter II, was a high school basketball and football standout at Miami’s Carver High School. He also competed in track as a high-jumper and sprinter.
Gaiter II’s athletic career ended when he was drafted by the U.S. Air Force out of high school and stationed in Japan, but his son said his father is still a tough man.
“When he played football, he would have teeth marks on his elbows from all the forearms to the face that he would deliver,” Gaiter III said. “Even now [at age 68], if he were to look at me a certain [mad] way, I would stop what I’m doing.”
The family nickname of Tony began with Gaiter II. His grandmother gave him that nickname, and it stuck.
His son, Elbre Bernard “Tony” Gaiter III, was a three-time state champion in the 200 meters at Miami Killian High, running some of the best times in the nation for a high school kid.
A 5-8, 170-pounder, Gaiter III was the fastest athlete in his family and can still run well at age 42.
“I think he could give you a solid 4.5 [seconds in the 40-yard dash] right now,” Gaiter IV said.
Gaiter III said he could have become a track star. Instead, he devoted himself to football, first at Killian, where he earned All-State honors as a senior running back, rushing for 1,011 yards, 19 touchdowns and a 9.4-yard average, and then at UM, where he scored seven TDs as a senior.
He was drafted by the New England Patriots in the sixth round of the 1997 NFL Draft, but was cut seven times in four years.
Gaiter III’s final year was 2000, when he caught passes in the preseason from a certain rookie sixth-round pick out of Michigan — Tom Brady.
These days, Gaiter III is retired. He said he was awarded a $3 million concussion settlement that will allow him to get “10 grand a month as long as I’m breathing.”
That settlement allows Gaiter III the freedom to watch his son in practice and at games, and he hands out advice daily.
“He tells me to get low out of the break, to be quicker, to use my hands, focus on the ball — stuff like that,” Gaiter IV said.
So who is the best athlete in the family?
Gaiter III said it’s Gaiter IV “by far.”
“He can catch a BB in the dark,” Gaiter III said.
Gaiter II doesn’t know who is the family’s best athlete, but he loves going to watch his grandson play.
“I feel very proud watching him,” Gaiter II said. “He has my name, and I hope one day he has a son and he names his son Elbre as well. I hope there’s always an Elbre walking around this planet.”