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2015 Today’s Top 10: Gabe Ikard

The Division I football player spent his time in college broadening his horizons, not merely flattening linemen.

Folklore suggests those who kiss the Blarney Stone are bestowed the gift of eloquence. Gabe Ikard counts himself among the millions who have ascended Ireland’s Blarney Castle, dangled over the parapet’s edge, clutched wrought-iron rails with each hand and sealed their lips to the underside of the battlements. However, exceedingly articulate already, he had little need for the stone’s gift.

As a four-year starter on the offensive line at the University of Oklahoma, Ikard captured attention from a generally unheralded position. Charming, witty and appreciative, he served as team captain, media spokesman and leader among his peers.

Prior to his senior year, Ikard and two teammates, with the help of an academic coordinator, devised a curriculum for a study-abroad course in Ireland.

“It was very interesting and very rewarding,” Ikard recounted to SoonerSports.com. “You just see a different part of the world, learn how other people and their culture operate. It’s very interesting to see the differences between the United States and other countries and how we do some things very differently.”

Ikard and his teammates trekked the countryside and visited historic landmarks during the 2 ½-week course. They even gained an appreciation for worldwide sports culture while attempting to participate in the ancient sports of Gaelic football and hurling.

“It was really embarrassing because we were really bad at them, but it was fun because we were just doing something different,” he said. “Humbling, the lack of skill that we had in these games.”

Endeavors like those are rare for Division I football players, given the time their sport demands. But the success of Ikard’s trip has paved the way for more student-athletes at Oklahoma to pursue similar courses, enabling a population that is sometimes hesitant to journey beyond familiar borders to experience more of the world.

Ikard graduated with 4.0 GPA in multidisciplinary studies – emphasizing biological sciences in order to set a path for medical school – and continued studying for a master’s degree in human relations while finishing his final football season and training for the NFL Combine. Among dozens of honors, he was voted the Big 12 Sportsperson of the Year and was a consensus All-American, the Capital One Division I Football Academic All-American of the Year and the Wuerffel Trophy winner.

While preparing for a professional football career at the East-West Shrine Game, Ikard was voted the recipient of the Pat TillmanAward, presented to a player who best exemplifies character, intelligence, sportsmanship and service.

“By the grace of God, we all have been given a platform to influence others through this wonderful game,” Ikard said when he accepted the award. “Winning championships, making all-conference and All-America teams are all tremendous accomplishments, but the most significant thing we did as college football players was making a difference by helping others.”

Eloquent, indeed – Blarney Stone or not.