Take 5: Former Tiger Andrew Ike on the Fort Lewis gridiron
College football didn’t quite go how Andrew Ike expected. For starters, he hardly expected to play after high school.
In 2011, back when Ike was a senior at Summit High School, the lifelong Summit County local was a standout on all sides of the pigskin. Quarterback, wide receiver, special teams — you name it, he played it. But, like so many on the Tigers football team, Ike was forced to become generally good at everything, rather than excel at one position like the majority of college prospects.
It didn’t stop Ike. As a freshman at Fort Lewis College in Durango, he took a chance and tried walking onto the Division II Skyhawks football team. Not only did the gamble pay off — he made the team his first year — he also ended up in his chosen position, wide receiver, and played well enough to earn a scholarship the next season as a red-shirt freshman.
After two seasons and one new head coach, Ike made the odd switch in 2014 from receiver to linebacker. It would be a tough change for anyone — except an all-around player from a mountain town school, where anything goes when coach needs help.
This past season was also Ike’s first full one as a linebacker, and it couldn’t come at a better time for the program. The Skyhawks went 0-10 in his first year and ended 7-4 this season, thanks in large part to a stalwart defense. The former receiver had 78 tackles, three forced fumbles, two interceptions and one blocked field goal for a touchdown, all en route to earning a place on Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference first team and the All-National Football Foundation Colorado Chapter team. “The coach who brought me to linebacker always told me, ‘You have great speed and just need to work on the rest,’” Ike said. “It’s how the position is changing. You have to battle speed with speed, and as offenses start getting faster you have to match it. That’s how our team worked this year (and) it worked phenomenal with our play.”
A few weeks before national signing day — a pomp-and-circumstance event for high school students lucky enough to win scholarships early — the Summit Daily sports desk caught up with Ike to talk about the season, his recent position change and his hopes for the fifth (and final) season as a Skyhawk.
Summit Daily News: It’s January and the Skyhawks final football game was nearly a month ago. How are you filling your time in the off-season?
Andrew Ike: One of the big things is just lifting a lot in the off-season, staying big. That’s what I lack now as a linebacker. My main goal has been to gain that strength and weight. When I switched over I was halfway through the season, and a season can take a toll on your body. It grinds on you. In that seventh or eighth game of the season my coach asked if I could do linebacker, and I figured if that’s where I was the best fit, then that’s what I would do for him.
SDN: Did you expect to stay at wide receiver for your entire college career?
AI: To be honest I thought I would. It’s a change of a mindset and a change of position. It’s just drastic. At first it was kind of hard. When I switched from high school to college ball, the only contact I had was blocking. I didn’t do much tackling. My coach had me go through lots of drills and lots of reps to see if this was best for me. I had to figure out body control and tackling, but overall to make that switch in just one year it was pretty comfortable. The coaches were fantastic with that.
SDN: You grew up in Summit and now live in Durango. How different are the two as mountain towns?
AI: This is just a gorgeous town, man. When I came here I fell in love. It’s similar to Summit County — it feels like a little ski town, but it’s also six hours away from home. I was just far enough. It’s just a very laid-back town, and the college is small so you feel like everyone is being taken care of, everyone cares. You actually have the chance to talk with professors instead of just being a face with another 300 people. This is just a sweet place and has some sweet skiing.
SDN: I think most people assume that athletes who grow up in the mountains should be skiers, snowboarders, Nordic racers — the usual winter sports. Why choose football?
AI: I guess I just kind of fell in love with the sport. I started playing because my brother played it. I always thought it was a sweet sport and I was always pretty decent at it. This sport also teaches lessons. Like a lot of sports you can learn life lessons, things like teamwork and working for a goal and everything. It has a lot to it.
SDN: What about skiing? Does football get in the way of powder turns?
AI: Not really. The whole time I’ve been here I’ve been able to ski a decent amount. One of the reasons I picked Fort Lewis was so I could still ski. I grew up loving it.
SDN: How do you make sure you’re staying at the same level — and even improving, getting better and stronger — during the long off-season in the mountains?
AI: Now that we just finished our season we took some time off, but we’re back into winter training now. We’ll be in the gym from 5 a.m. until class time through the week. Then we’ll be doing mat drills: football-related drills to continue getting better. This year has been different than previous years because we had a new coach. This year, lifting right after Thanksgiving was mandatory. They’ll get you a workout packet with things to do over Christmas break, then you have a week after that before starting into spring practice outside. It’s looking like April this year.
SDN: How hard is it to stay motivated for off-season training? Do you play any other sports to mix things up and stay sharp?
AI: I like staying in the groove, working out constantly. Even as a receiver I liked doing that. This last year I changed a lot, just trying to eat as much as I could, having constant snacks and preparing meals that will last through the entire day. I just like the grind of working out and staying moving. You can’t put much commitment to other sports because our training starts in the spring, so it’s kind of hard to do that. But my freshman year they let me play a game or two on the club lacrosse team. These days it’s just football and other things, like pick-up basketball.
SDN: You were named to two conference teams this past season — the first time in your career. What did that mean to you as a player?
AI: It was kind of surreal, to be honest. I didn’t expect that at all. I wasn’t hoping or trying for it, really. One of my friends texted me about it to let me know and I was just shocked. It hit me by surprise. We had a good season, and when we watch film I always feel like I could do more, but the coaches across the league must have thought I did well.
SDN: Next season is your final year on the team. Have you thought about what comes after college football?
AI: I’m definitely team-oriented, man. It will be my senior year, so I want to send all of us seniors out as winners. The next thing after that would be a post-season run if possible. I still haven’t made it (that far) with this team. When I finally graduate college and get through with my undergrad I’m looking at chiropractic schools.
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