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OU football: Gabe Ikard will take over at center with Ben Habern out

Senior center Ben Habern was forced to give up football after dealing with injuries.
by Jason Kersey Published: August 1, 2012

Ben Habern and Gabe Ikard labored through a typical weightlifting session together this summer when Habern suddenly began having trouble.

His arm started going numb.

Soon afterward, Ikard told the story to his father, Jim, over dinner.

“We were out to dinner, and he said, ‘I'm the only healthy center on campus,'” Jim Ikard remembered.

Wednesday, the junior officially became the Sooners' starter at the position after coach Bob Stoops announced Habern's decision to end his college football career due to lingering neck and back issues.

The problems stem from a condition the senior has dealt with since high school. It marks the end of a special career often marred by health issues.

As a true freshman, Habern played in a few games, suffered an ankle injury and was given a medical hardship. The next year, again a freshman, he started 10 games before another season-ending ankle injury.

Habern started all 14 games as a sophomore for the Sooners team that won the Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl.

In 2011, though, Habern missed a large chunk of his junior year with a fractured forearm. During the time Habern was out, Ikard moved over from guard and played quite well in his place.

When Habern had neck surgery in January and missed spring football, Ikard moved back to center, he thought, temporarily.

At Wednesday's Sooner Caravan at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Ikard spoke to the crowd and said, “I assume I'll be at center during all of two-a-days.”

The crowd laughed, and Toby Rowland, the evening's Master of Ceremonies, looked to Stoops in the crowd for confirmation.

Stoops just nodded.

“It's horrible,” Ikard said of Habern's career ending. “It's horrible for him; it's horrible for the team, but he's taking care of his health and he's making the smart decision.”

Habern, who was the center on the preseason All-Big 12 team, was one of three players representing the Sooners at Big 12 Media Days just last week, when he said his neck problems, which required surgery in January, were “healed up.”

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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