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Oklahoma football: Gabe Ikard is the face of the Sooners

COMMENTARY — Excellence on the field and in the classroom make the former Bishop McGuinness standout the symbol of OU's senior class.
by Jenni Carlson Modified: November 14, 2013 at 2:00 pm •  Published: November 13, 2013

NORMAN — Gabe Ikard gets recognized by Sooner fans all the time.

Recognized as quarterback Blake Bell.

“Pretty much 75 percent of the people mistake me for Blake,” he said.

Here's guessing the Oklahoma center might be exaggerating a bit. He is a face of this football team, after all.

Say what you will about what it means that an offensive lineman is a marquee Sooner — an endorsement of Ikard or an indictment of the state of the program — but the Sooner Nation couldn't have asked for a better representative.

To think, if not for an unexpected change of position, Ikard might have finished his career as a little-used tight end.

As he and the rest of this senior class prepares for its last home game, it is a group that will hold a dubious distinction. With the exception of Bob Stoops' first season, this will be the first class in the Stoops Era to have no players who traveled to or played in a national championship game.

This class has had departures (Kenny Stills, Tony Jefferson and Tom Wort) and arrivals (Jalen Saunders, Damien Williams and four other transfers). It has had injuries (Corey Nelson and Trey Millard) and suspensions (Jaz Reynolds) and even cancer (Austin Woods).

No one has been more solid than Ikard.

Since becoming a starter as a redshirt freshman, he has started all but one game at center or left guard. Pair that with his perfect grade-point average, and Ikard has won or been named a finalist for every imaginable academic award in college football.

Representing his school well was always important for a guy who grew up in Oklahoma City rooting for the Sooners.

“I've put a lot into this place,” he said. “I've always loved this place.”

Ikard loved it enough to sacrifice for it — though it's a sacrifice that has worked out pretty well for him.

As a true freshman, he was playing tight end on the scout team. He was one of the top-ranked tight end recruits in the nation, but one day, then-defensive line coach Jackie Shipp hollered at him.

“Gabe Ikard, you're the only one that blocks out here,” Shipp said. “Come here and play scout team center.”

Suddenly, Ikard found himself face to face with Gerald McCoy. And when the future first-round draft pick was getting a breather, Adrian Taylor stepped in.

McCoy and Taylor had their way with Ikard most of the time — “I was getting just destroyed every day,” Ikard admitted — but every now and then, he would have a good play. He would get McCoy or Taylor blocked. He would do what he was supposed to do, even though he was vastly undersized.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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