NORMAN — Saturday night won’t be the first time Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard has heard the “Notre Dame Victory March” played at full tilt. The Oklahoma City native spent his childhood in Catholic schools and graduated from Bishop McGuinness — home of the Fighting Irish. He even made a recruiting visit to Notre Dame.
“It’s kind of a love-hate thing with Notre Dame. I grew up in a Catholic school my entire life. I was always a Notre Dame fan. Their fight song was our high school fight song,” he said. “It’s kind of like the Yankees. You either love them or you hate them.”
Luckily, for the eighth-ranked Sooners (5-1), he picked them. It doesn’t show in the stat column, but there hasn’t been a player more pivotal in their offensive success than Ikard.
It isn’t a surprise that Ikard has played at a high level this season. He was an All-Big 12 selection last season as a sophomore and even made his way onto some All-American teams. He’s turned into the heart-and-soul of OU’s offensive line in more ways than one.
“He’s the leader of our offensive line,” left tackle Lane Johnson said.
To guards and tackles coach James Patton, it goes beyond Ikard being a really good player. Ikard is 4.0 student, and his academic aptitude is the reason his final three college choices were Notre Dame, Stanford and OU. His intelligence extends to every facet of football.
Ikard is the one who calls out the Sooners’ blocking schemes. Defensive tackles are jumping around and linebackers are darting in and out, but Ikard has a remarkable ability to crouch down over a football and dissect all the madness.
“He can come off the field and tell me what happened. Even if it wasn’t his guy who made the hit, he’s usually got a pretty good idea.” Patton said. “When I go back and watch it Sunday morning it’s what he told me. You have to trust guys like that.”