NORMAN, Okla. -- The words of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops had a deeper meaning than anticipated as the Sooners coach spoke of offensive lineman Gabe Ikard during his weekly press conference.
"Gabe can do anything in there," said Stoops when referring to Ikard's ability to adapt and excel along the Sooners offensive line.
Stoops easily could have been talking about Ikard's personality off the football field as well.
A redshirt sophomore who has started at guard and center during his OU career, Ikard has a unique combination of intelligence, charisma and determination.
"He's such a normal guy," said Annette Moran, an assistant director of athletic academic affairs at OU. "Sometimes you meet someone who is super intelligent and it's hard to connect with them. He's very personable, he's very charismatic."
A member of the Academic All-Big 12 team in 2010, Ikard can go seamlessly from excelling and connecting with classmates in a science lab to excelling and connecting with teammates on the football field.
"He has great adaptation skills; he can adapt to a situation and he's fine," Moran said. "He just kind of knows how to deal with things on his own."
In addition to starting 20 of his 22 games in a Sooners uniform, he's one of the best students on the team, maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average while majoring in zoology. He won the Jay Myers Award as a freshman, an award given to freshmen athletes for academic excellence.
"Gabe is pretty special," Moran said. "There are people that just have it; he's so smart, but he also works very hard at it. He's so dedicated."
Ikard's dedication can be seen in various parts of his life. When he realized he had a better chance of playing if he moved to offensive line, the former tight end at Oklahoma City, Okla./Bishop McGuinness High School gained more than 30 pounds and moved to guard.
When he decided he would like to become a doctor, he didn't think twice about investing his personal time -- skipping some of the joys of being a college football player -- to focus on his studies with the hope of reaching that goal.
"Gabe has very, very high aspirations," Moran said. "He spends so many hours studying, and I know his teammates joke around that he can't do anything -- he's always studying.
Ikard picked zoology because it has the prerequisites to prepare him for medical school when his playing career is over. It's a time-consuming major and, with the added demands of being a major contributor for one of the nation's top teams, it would be easy for Ikard to stumble in the classroom.
Yet that hasn't happened.
"It's definitely not easy," Ikard said. "It's just a matter of time management. Coach Stoops always says taking care of things off the field is part of it."
Ikard stepped on campus with a plan, which is one of the biggest reasons for his success on and off the field. An excellent student at Bishop McGuinness -- who also considered Stanford and Notre Dame before picking the Sooners -- the sophomore knew it would be difficult to manage his goals of becoming a doctor and becoming an impact player on the field before he even arrived in Norman.
"He knew very early on he wanted to potentially go to medical school and be a doctor," Moran said. "Sometimes you get guys who have the aptitude and the capability but don't really give it all they've got, then they end up having to make another choice which maybe wasn't the choice they wanted."
Ikard refuses to be one of those guys.
"I've been raised to take pride in how I do academically," Ikard said. "I've always been someone who worried about getting good grades."
And through hard work, commitment and sheer determination, Ikard has become a guy who should be featured on NCAA commercials as the definition of a student athlete.
Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.