Injuries, although unfortunate, run rampant amongst top tier athletes and the collegiate level is no exception. The Oklahoma Sooners have experienced the loss of key players time and time again. However, no position has experienced the adversity the offensive line has been forced to endure.
Gabe Ikard has long been a staple along this offensive line but his journey to starting center was not exempt from detours.
During his high school career at Bishop McGuinness (OKC), Ikard grew accustomed to playing on both sides of the ball. As interest from D-I universities mounted, a crucial decision needed to be made. The verdict was to pursue a college career on the offensive side of things as a tight end at the University of Oklahoma.
I came here and my attitude was I'll do what helps the team win. I watched a lot of film of (former OU tight end) Brody (Eldridge) when I was first recruited. - Gabe Ikard via OUDaily
Initially recruited as a blocking tight end, Ikard hit the weight room as he redshirted his freshman year. The additional 30+ pounds to his 6-3 frame combined well with the ability to learn on the fly as the coaching staff explored the possibilities for this talented freshman. It was in that moment that the idea to move Ikard to the offensive line was birthed and the rest is history.
As a redshirt freshman, Ikard found a home at left guard garnering All-Big 12 honorable mention honors all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
In the latter half of 2011, Ikard flashed his versatility by sliding over to center in place of an injured Ben Habern. However, no one could foresee what was about to transpire next. With a career still firmly in place, Habern decided to retire from collegiate athletics due to lingering neck and back problems before the start of the following season.
With the glaring issue at hand, the coaching staff needed to fill the void in a hurry. All heads immediately turned toward Ikard who had experience at the position making him a natural fit. The desire to put team ahead of self has worked out in favor of Ikard as he has garnered much attention at the center position.
It's probably the most natural position for me because I wasn't a burner at tight end. Sure, the size of the guys I'm blocking changes, but I'm very comfortable at this position. - Gabe Ikard
Ikard has been named to the AP and Coaches All-Big 12 First Team in two consecutive seasons and will be looking for the three-peat in 2013.