Sometime Saturday night, former Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard figures to be picked in the NFL Draft.
He’ll celebrate with friends and family in Oklahoma City. Ikard and the group will also be enjoying some complimentary food—pasta from Olive Garden.
“They’ve been really kind to me and hooked me up with some food,” Ikard said. “I’ve been really glad that everybody’s enjoyed it as much as we have. It’s been a lot of fun to just poke fun at and get some laughs.”
Ikard, former OU lineman Austin Woods and one other Sooners athlete had to pay $3.83 to charity last year after being served pasta at a graduation banquet last May.
The incident, which was revealed in February after The Oklahoman obtained OU’s self-reported secondary violations through an open records request, brought plenty of jokes at the NCAA’s expense and raised questions about the rules governing food for athletes.
Ikard had plenty of fun with the incident when it first came to light, revealing himself and Woods to be two of the three pasta eaters. So did Olive Garden.
The company’s official Twitter account began interacting with Ikard soon after the story came out and at the NFL Scouting Combine, Olive Garden sent four bags of breadsticks, salad, desserts and of course pasta to his room in Indianapolis.
Could Ikard be in an Olive Garden commercial sometime soon?
“That’d be awesome,” Ikard said. “Because I would be getting paid.”
Recently, the NCAA changed its rules allowing both scholarship players and walk-ons to be provided unlimited food and snacks. Previously, the rules allowed for a food stipend or three meals a day for scholarship athletes only.
“I like the things that give the walk-ons some more rewards for what they’re doing and the time they’re putting in, saving them a lot of money,” Ikard said. “That’ll make the team closer because you have some great times at team meals—you have some great conversations. I think it’ll be a good step for team chemistry to have those guys there and make them feel like a true part of the team.”