Igber loads
up on fun

The Iolani alumnus rushed for
1,130 yards for Cal this year,
and he's wrapping up his career
in the Hula Bowl

By Cindy Luis

WAILUKU >> This was his bowl game. On the simple field across from the Lahaina Aquatic Center, with cane-haul drivers tooting their horns as they passed on Honoapiilani Highway.

The bright Lahaina sun was his spotlight. Being able to moon-walk along the sidelines, chat up the water boys and smile back at his Aina teammates was more than Joe Igber ever dreamed of getting out of football.

If he doesn't play a single down in today's Hula Bowl, Igber will be more than satisfied. Yesterday's practice may have been his last after some dozen years of putting on cleats and taking them off again.

Cal's No. 2 all-time leading rusher behind Russell White isn't on any NFL team's radar screen. At 5-foot-7, 190 pounds, Igber is flying under it ... and he is realistic about what tomorrow will bring.

"This is for one last laugh," said Igber, who set seven Hawaii state rushing records during his high school career at Iolani. "I don't even care if I play or not. I came to be a part of this, to talk to these guys and to the coaches, to come back home and surf a little bit.

"I came, I had fun and this is a great way to end my career. I've never been treated like royalty and we have been, and this is a really good group of guys. I'm not the only one moon-walking out there. This is just perfect."

Igber's GPA out of Iolani was also perfect: 4.0. He chose the University of California because of academics and is a year away from attaining his civil engineering degree.

"I really wanted to try the NFL thing but I don't know how realistic it is to leave school and try to come back," said Igber, whose family moved to Hawaii from their native Nigeria when he was a year old. "I haven't talked to any scouts. I'm not sought after. It's no big deal to me. I'm sure they won't miss me."

But the Golden Bears will miss him. This past year, Igber racked up 1,130 yards and became just the ninth Cal runner to go over the 1,000-yard mark in a season.

His career-best 226 yards on 26 carries against Stanford in the season finale was the greatest rushing effort in the 105 years of the "Big Game" between Cal and Stanford. It also capped the only winning season for Igber in a Cal uniform at 7-5; the Golden Bears went 4-7 in 1999, 3-9 in 2000 and 1-10 in 2001.

"I've enjoyed the whole college experience at Cal, especially this past season" said Igber, who led the Golden Bears in rushing for three of his four seasons. "The first three years were kind of dismal. But you've got to learn to take the good with the bad, because there's always going to be bad days."

Igber wears his belief on his left arm with a tattoo. The Japanese kanji signifies trust or faith and "I was looking for a way to represent that something good will come out of what I do," said Igber.

"It's definitely going to be hard to hang up the cleats," he added. "It's been a big part of my life. I started in Pop Warner when I was 10. But I've prepared for this since the end of my junior year."

His junior season was cut short by a fractured clavicle. At the time, Igber was leading the Bears in rushing with 399 yards and had 139 yards receiving; he finished his career with 3,125 rushing yards, 755 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns.

Aina coach Larry Coker liked what he saw from Igber during practice this week. He used the running back as a receiver for short and long yardage and also as a single back.

"He's a good player," the Miami coach said of Igber. "I don't know if he's thinking NFL, but he reminds me of a player we had at Oklahoma by the name of Barry Sanders.

"They're both small but quick, explosive and hard to tackle. He'll be in a lot Saturday."

Just being back in War Memorial Stadium will be a treat for the 21-year-old Igber, who played here on a Pop Warner team some 10 years ago.

"It's a great way to finish off my career where it started," he said. "I'm pretty sure this will be my last game. I'm not trying to do anything more than I usually do or less than I usually do.

"All good things come to an end and I'm not afraid of it. I don't know how else to explain it other than this so cool."

Hula Bowl

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