Ikard was the winner of the 2013 Wuerffel Trophy presented by the All Sports Association, Inc. in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. He became the first University of Oklahoma student-athlete to win this prestigious honor and only the second individual from a Big 12 institution to receive this accolade.
“It’s a huge honor,” Ikard said at the official awards ceremony in Florida. “I’ve tried my best to represent myself well, my family well and the University of Oklahoma well. This award validates the things I’ve done in college. It makes me feel good. To be recognized for doing stuff on and off the field is a huge honor.”
The Wuerffel Trophy annually honors the college football player who best combines exemplary community service with outstanding academic and athletic achievement. The national award, which recognizes outstanding ambassadors for college football who embody character and excellence, is named after former Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel, who led the University of Florida to the 1996 national championship.
“Like every year, we had quite a list of finalists, young men that have just done some phenomenal things, been very successful in their athletic career, in their academics, also in helping folks,” the award’s namesake Danny Wuerffel said. “But for me, it was really not a hard choice because of what he [Gabe Ikard] has done in all those areas and excelled and done a remarkable job and represented himself, his family, his school so well. We’re thrilled that he’s our winner.”
Although OU head coach Bob Stoops was unable to attend the event in Fort Walton Beach due to a prior commitment, the honor does carry some special significance for Stoops, who was the defensive coordinator on Florida’s national championship squad that was quarterbacked by Wuerffel.
“I can’t think of a more fitting recipient of the Wuerffel Trophy than Gabe Ikard,” said Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. “He not only epitomizes what it means to be a student-athlete, but much like Danny, he also possesses a great ability to uplift others. He is an outstanding representative of the University of Oklahoma in all that he does. Along with his family, teammates, coaches and the entire OU community, we are exceedingly proud of Gabe and congratulate him on this well-deserved honor.”
Wuerffel likewise has a tremendous appreciation for Stoops, both for his contribution in bringing a national title to the Gators, but also for his body of work at Oklahoma.
“I’m a huge Bob Stoops fan for a lot of years now and continue to be,” said the 1996 Heisman Trophy winner. “I remember my junior year, we had a really good team and were ranked number one, ended up losing to Nebraska. We made a change in defensive coordinator going in to my senior season and Coach Stoops came and our defense was just powerful. They were getting turnovers and getting the ball back. It was a lot of fun. We had so many more opportunities on offense. We were known for having a good offense and when the defense came and was that strong, it just propelled us to win it.
“There are many Gators, including myself, that would like to thank Bob Stoops for being a part of that National Championship and I knew there’s a lot of Oklahoma Sooners that are thankful for what he’s done there, too.”
One of the unique aspects of the Wuerffel Trophy is that previous winners not only vote on this annual honor, they also reconvene in Florida every year to help usher the newest recipient into their unique fraternity.
“What we look for is a guy that exemplifies academics, performance on the field, as well as community service,” said former LSU center Rudy Niswanger, who was the award’s inaugural recipient. “Looking at Gabe, he was the guy that seemed to fit that mold of what we were looking for and someone that really embodies the balance that we really look for in collegiate athletics. Gabe fit that group; Gabe fit that mold of what we’re looking for.”
Asked if there were any particular initiation rituals that Ikard had to pass, Niswanger indicated that the initial Sooner to accept this accolade seemed to fit right in with previous honorees.
“Well, we made fun of him a lot,” Niswanger laughed. “That’s kind of our group. When the criteria of the award is so similar, you get a lot of people with similar personalities, a lot of similar interests. You get to talk about a lot of things that you really only get to talk about once a year with this group when these guys gather back up against. Gabe’s going to fit in that group well. We kept him up until 1 a.m. talking with us old guys. It was great.”
Ikard amassed quite a bit of hardware in 2013. He was also the recipient of the Selmon Spirit Award, the Don Key Award, and was named an NFF Scholar-Athlete as well as the Capital One Academic All-American of the Year. Ikard was also a finalist for the Campbell Trophy, the Senior CLASS Award and the Rimington Trophy
An Oklahoma City native, Ikard earned Academic All-Big 12 first team honors in four straight years with a 4.0 GPA in multidisciplinary studies. He was one of just five Big 12 football student-athletes named to the 2013 Academic All-Big 12 team with a 4.0 GPA. In May 2012 he was part of the Sooners for Haiti trip, spending a week working with the children served by the orphanages of the Mission of Hope in Titanyen, Haiti.
Ikard is a four-time All-Big 12 selection and became OU’s 154th All-America selection in 2013. He claimed First-Team All-America honors from the AFCA, CBS Sports and Walter Camp and All-Big 12 First Team honors from AP, coaches, Athlon Sports, ESPN.com, Phil Steele, San Antonio Express-News and Sporting News for his performance on the field in 2013.
A two-time team captain, Ikard led a senior class with an impressive resume. In 2013, the Sooners rushed for 223.9 yards-per-game behind the Ikard led offensive line, good for an increase of 62.5 yards-per-game compared to the 2012 campaign. Over the past four seasons, no Big 12 school has more overall wins (43) or Big 12 wins (27) than the Sooners. Ikard’s class helped the Sooners register 14 wins vs. AP Top 25 foes, including six wins vs. AP Top 10 squads. The Class of 2013 earned four consecutive bowl berths including two BCS bowl berths and won Big 12 titles in 2010 and 2012, while recording 3-1 records against rivals Texas and Oklahoma State and a 21-3 record on Owen Field.
Wuerffel Trophy Winners
2005 C Rudy Niswanger LSU
2006 DT Joel Penton Ohio State
2007 QB Paul Smith Tulsa
2008 QB Tim Tebow Florida
2009 QB Tim Hiller Western Michigan
2010 DE Sam Acho Texas
2011 T Barrett Jones Alabama
2012 QB Matt Barkley USC
2013 C Gabe Ikard Oklahoma
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