Kyle Ibanez, starting offensive tackle for the Sand Devils football team, signed a letter of intent last week to play football for Ripon College.
Ibanez says he’s really looking forward to the next chapter in his life, and he’s very excited to play football at the college level.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” he said on Monday. “This is pretty big. It’s kind of unbelievable.”
Ripon College is a liberal arts college in Ripon, Wisc., located about an hour southwest of Green Bay.
Ibanez played offensive tackle for the Sand Devils, helping them reach the first round of the state playoffs and one of the best seasons (8-3) they’ve had in years.
“I think any of our backs would agree that you don’t rush for 3,000 yards as a team without a terrific offensive line,” said Sand Devils Head Football Coach Mitchell Stephens. “Kyle’s the strongest guy on our team and he used his strength to open holes for our backs. While not a vocal guy, he led by example. Kyle provided leadership and experience on an [offensive] line than needs both of those things.”
Coach Stephens believes Ibanez character and work ethic will take him far.
“Kyle’s work ethic may be one of the best that I’ve ever coached,” said Stephens. “He’s constantly working to improve. He was here every day during the summer and often participated in multiple workouts. He does voluntary extra workouts every day after practice.”
As Ibanez advances into college football he thinks his position will shift from playing tackle to guard because of his height.
Ibanez and Ripon College learned of each other through an organization called Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) which helps college athletic programs and high school athletes find each other.
Ibanez received an email from Ripon College’s football coach early in the football season, who expressed interest in Ibanez’s abilities and his interest in recruiting him. The two continued their communications via text, email and phone calls as the season progressed. Ibanez says he and his future coach will finally meet face to face next month in Phoenix.
While Ibanez is greatly looking forward to playing college football he will greatly miss his family, his church family and his friends from Page, he said.
“And the warm weather,” he said. “It gets pretty cold in Wisconsin.”
Ibanez is already making goals for what he hopes to accomplish during his time in Wisconsin.
“I’m looking forward to helping their football program be successful,” he said. “I want to help them win a title while I’m there. Oh, and I want to go to a Packers game. I’m a big Packers fan.”
Looking beyond college Ibanez’s ultimate goal is to return to Arizona and become a school teacher, a coach and a role model. “I’d like to be more involved on the Navajo Reservation,” he said. “I hope my success will show them that they can do this too. I want to let them know that it takes time to achieve what they want to achieve, but if they put in the work and they’re patient it will pay off later on.”
“The only thing more impressive than Kyle’s work ethic is his character,” said Coach Stephens. “He’s a great individual and a wonderful teammate.”