116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The highest of the highs, some of the lowest of the lows.
Mo Ibrahim has experienced them in his six-year football career at the University of Minnesota.
The Big Ten Conference’s running back of the year. The records he has set and still will set for the Gophers: those are some of the highs.
Suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in Minnesota’s season-opening game last year against Ohio State and trying to come back from that? Those were the lows.
“Never lose faith,” Ibrahim told local reporters at the start of fall camp this season. “You’re going to have hard days, you’re gonna have tough days where you think that you’re looking at the top of Mount Everest, and you’re thinking ‘Hey, I’ve gotta get there. I gotta get there.’
“But you’ve got to break it down into little sections. Like I said, at first I just wanted to walk again. I was on a scooter. I just wanted to walk again, and I had to (learn to) run again. There are like little steps, steps, steps. And then you look down and (all of a sudden) realize you’re at the top of Mount Everest.”
Ibrahim has 51 career touchdowns (in just 38 games), which is a Minnesota record. He has recorded 18 straight 100-yard rushing games, which is remarkable, especially since every Gophers opponent keys on him.
He has 4,264 career rushing yards, not quite at the top of Mount Everest. Darrell Thompson’s school record is 4,654.
Ibrahim surpassed former teammate Rodney Smith for second all-time last week in a win over Northwestern. Minnesota and Ibrahim have at least three games left, including Saturday afternoon at home against Iowa.
“I looked up to Rodney when I first got here,” Ibrahim said postgame last Saturday. “He showed me a lot of things. He showed me how to prepare for a game, how to take care of your body and how to deal with going through hard times. I didn’t know I passed him, but it’s an honor to pass him.”
Ibrahim is a 5-foot-10, 205-pounder from Baltimore who redshirted as a true freshman in 2017. He played 10 games the following year, rushing for 1,160 yards.
He played 11 games as a sophomore in 2019, rushing for 604 yards, then had 1,076 yards and 15 TDs in seven games in the COVID-shortened 2020 season.
Ibrahim had 163 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries when he went down in the second half of last year’s opener. He ultimately decided to return to Minnesota for one more season instead of declaring for the National Football League.
“He’s not only one of the best players we have, but he’s one of the best people,” Minnesota Coach P.J. Fleck said.
“It was an on-and-off conversation with Coach Fleck, (running backs coach Kenni) Coach Burns and people I actually trusted,” Ibrahim said. “I knew they were going to tell me what I needed to hear, and I believed in them. I think I made the right decision. Once I made a decision, I stuck to it. I’m happy for the decision I made, and I’m just moving forward.”
Ibrahim isn’t the fastest tailback that ever has played, isn’t the biggest, doesn’t have overly elite physical skills. But he has the ability to set up blocks and make defenders miss him.
After his injury, he accepted an invitation from Burns to take part in observing the coaching staff’s process of making out offensive game plans. That has aided him, he said.
“I was asking questions like, ‘Why is that play going to work? Why is that on the call sheet?’” Ibrahim told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. “Just understanding the play calling, the looks they want when they call it. It all goes together, and I think last year that was what I focused on. And then going into this year, it all rolled over.”
“Like all good players, you have to defend him every play and until the whistle blows,” said Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz. “He's just tough, hard nosed. He's not exceptionally sized, he's fast, but I don't know if he's like a 4.3 (second 40-yard dash time) or anything like that, but he's just a tough football player ... When you think of him coming off the ACL, and the way he did it. As I recall he announced that pretty quickly that he was going to be back for another year, and he's a really veteran player. Got a lot of respect for him. This guy's a winner.”
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