South Carolina football: JT Ibe on Pigskin Poets, start of Gamecocks’ fall camp
For most football players, goal boards are places to write down their wildest dreams and most ambitious hopes — All-SEC honors, All-American team, NFL draft pick, national championship.
For J.T. Ibe, it starts with something much more simple.
“On my goal board, stay healthy is the No. 1 thing,” Ibe told The State. “Because if you can’t stay healthy, you can’t play.”
It’s an obvious and important goal for the sixth-year senior defensive back, who missed his freshman year at Rice and most of last season at South Carolina as a grad transfer due to injuries.
Ibe was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA in January, and he entered training camp as one of the Gamecocks’ starting safeties. In a defensive backs room with just two scholarship upperclassmen, Ibe is an old man, eager to impress upon his younger teammates the importance of conditioning and health.
“I tell them, you gotta take care of your body. You have to. I know that from previous experience from being hurt, and it sucks to be hurt,” Ibe said.
A fellow sixth-year player, offensive lineman Donell Stanley, said he and Ibe share a bond because of their experiences, and he agrees that underclassmen need to be know how important physical well-being is.
“Proper nutrition, getting in the cold tub after every practice, lifting right and just living right outside of the building,” Stanley said. “You figure it out when your body’s just not feeling the same and you can’t recover as well as you used to. You figure out you need all that stuff.”
That kind of message and senior leadership is something Ibe said he didn’t have as a young player at Rice, where he majored in kinesiology. At USC, however, his words and experiences have helped guide the talented youngsters coach Will Muschamp will likely rely upon.
“He definitely leads by example, does the right things on and off the field, and I would say on the team, he’s the guy that takes care of his body the most, whether it’s nutrition, going in for recovery and treatment, I just look up to him in those ways,” sophomore defensive back Jaycee Horn said.
Hearing that, Ibe said, gives him confidence in his leadership.
“I think being a leader for me is just leading by action, like how Jaycee notices how I take care of my body, how people notice how I work specifically,” Ibe said. “That’s the type of leader that I am, just a lead-by-example type of guy.”
But just because Ibe is dedicated to staying healthy doesn’t mean he’s playing with any reservations or worries. On the contrary, his excitement for one final season of college ball is palpable.
“You can tell just talking to him that he’s happy to still be a part of the team, be able to play the game of football,” Horn said. “Because he’s been in the game a while, he has guys back at home right now working regular jobs, so he’s happy to still have the opportunity and have a shot.”
On the field, Ibe intends to squeeze out every last bit of football he has in him.
“It’s all gas, no brakes. I’m all in,” Ibe said. “It’s my sixth year, I got blessed with another year, so you gotta take advantage of the opportunity, and I think I’m doing a good job of that.”