Thursday, September 9, 1999
Igber is impressiveBy Pat Bigold
It wasn't the fact that California freshman Joe Igber gained a respectable 55 yards on seven carries in his first NCAA game last weekend.
What impressed his running backs coach, Ron Gould, was the way he broke his first run from scrimmage off a draw in the first quarter of the Bears' 21-7 home win against Rutgers.
"He got hit pretty good by a linebacker about three yards out," said Gould. "But he just kept on going for 35 yards."
That run not only showed the toughness of the 5-foot-8, 190-pound Iolani graduate, but it also displayed his uncanny ability to make people miss.
"It was exhilarating," said Igber, whose footwork has been compared with that of retired NFL great Barry Sanders.
But only seven days after his NCAA baptism, Igber must play in front of the biggest hostile crowd he's ever experienced.
The Bears will travel to Lincoln Memorial Stadium to face No. 5 Nebraska on Saturday before a projected crowd of 76,000. It's the 228th straight sellout for the Huskers.
Is Igber nervous?
"Definitely I am," he said.
Even Bears head coach Tom Holmoe, who played in three Super Bowls with the 49ers, said playing in Nebraska is a bit daunting. He told a San Francisco paper that he never played in front of that many people while in the NFL.
The fact that over the past 11 years, the Huskers are 69-3 at home doesn't make the stadium in Lincoln any more inviting.
Last year, Nebraska traveled to the West Coast and clobbered California, 24-3.
Igber has been compared to Sanders since high school, when he was rewriting almost every Hawaii prep rushing record. Now the Sanders comparisons have surfaced in the San Francisco area.
"His teammates are calling him 'Little Barry,' " said Gould.
Glenn Dickey, in Monday's San Francisco Chronicle, put it in print, commenting that Igber has "Barry Sanders-like moves."
Igber finds the comparisons flattering but far-fetched and hardly reacts to them.
Vanity is not one of his traits.
He's too busy with his studies and football, in that order. He said adjusting to academically intensive Cal while juggling a seven-hour football day requires all of his concentration.
Igber, who earned a 4.0 grade point average at Iolani during the same semester in which he broke the state's career rushing record last year, continues to insist that football is secondary to academics.
While others were enjoying the summer, Igber completed courses in math and chemistry on the Berkeley campus. Always looking ahead, he decided it would be wise to lighten his class load during his first season of NCAA football.
He said he's finding time management is essential to survival as a student-athlete in college.
"There's only so much time for academics and so much time for football," said Igber, an engineering major. "Unfortunately, there's less time taken up by academics. So, you have to make it a point to make academics more important than football. It's way too easy to forget about studying here because so much is left up to you and there are so many distractions."