NO matter how you feel about anything in local sports this year, there's one thing upon which we can all agree.
impressive as a
Joe Igber Jr. will be missed.
In a time when many of Hawaii's most talented prep football athletes fail to make it past the SAT stage, Igber has clearly defined the meaning of scholar-athlete.
When the 5-foot-7, 190-pound Nigerian-born running back runs on to his Iolani School home field at 3:15 p.m. Friday to face Damien, he will be putting the finishing touches on an extraordinary Interscholastic League of Honolulu football career.
But forget the nine state and ILH rushing and scoring records he's broken, and forget the ones he could break this weekend.
Think instead about the fact that this young man, who has become the most talked about football player at any level -- prep or college -- in Hawaii this year, just earned a 4.0 grade point average for the first quarter.
I can't recall when I have seen a scholar-athlete reach such a level of excellence on both fronts in his senior year.
IGBER has eclipsed local prep football immortals such as Mosi Tatupu, Mark Atuaia and George Ornellas. And he's done it while hitting the books with as much intensity as he's attacked the line of scrimmage.
You could never ask a kid to do what Igber has done. But those who know him say it's not in his nature to settle for less than he thinks he can achieve -- in anything.
"He's so very goal-oriented," said Gail Schroers, his school counselor.
"He even came in one year and requested his quarter report because he wanted to check on his own progress," she said. Igber has never been below 3.0, but he's never been satisfied with his academic progress.
Not even the 4.0 makes him completely happy. "I wanted better," he said, referring to a B+ he regretted.
Iolani has one of the stricter academic regimens among the nation's private schools. Merely maintaining eligibility to play a sport at that school could absorb most of an average student-athlete's waking hours.
Not many people know that Igber has been going to summer school to accelerate his progress and to lighten his load for fall football.
He completed trigonometry two summers ago so that he could get into pre-calculus in his junior year, opening the way for advanced calculus this semester.
He completed his three years of foreign language (Spanish) last year.
He scored well above the national average on his first SAT but he's embarrassed that he didn't do even better. So he took it again last week.
IGBER wants to go into architecture, engineering or computer science.
His academic motivation has not gone unnoticed by the schools showing the most interested in his services: Cal-Berkeley, Hawaii, Stanford, Northwestern, Oregon, Notre Dame, Washington and Wisconsin.
Hawaii wants him to sit in on some architectural classes.
Ask him if the 4.0 ranks up there with his state career rushing and touchdown records, remarkable as they are, and he'll tell you the GPA ranks above everything.
Why? Igber's answer is that the GPA was harder to accomplish than the yardage.
That's saying something.
The yardage has never come easily behind Iolani's scrappy but undersized offensive line.
Three of his linemen weigh less than Igber.
In a year that has revealed shortcomings in Hawaii's sports programs, athletes and coaches, Igber has shown what the Hawaii student-athlete truly can be.
Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.