When Ifey Ibik, the 6-foot-2, 290-pound defensive lineman for the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Javelinas is not cracking skulls on the gridiron, he’s usually playing for his other team—the orchestra.
Don’t judge a book by its cover, but this big, beastly football player has a softer side.
Like many youthful pursuits, it started with a cute girl.
“There was this one girl that I liked in the orchestra, [so wanting to sit in her section] I asked my teacher what instrument I should play,” he said.
The teacher pointed to the girl and asked her to show Ibik her instrument.
“I was like, ‘bet, she plays the viola, then I play the viola, too. Sign me up,” Ibik recalled.
However, the future defensive standout would realize he made a tiny mistake.
“Here’s the tragic part,” said Ibik on his decision, “she was really a violinist, and she just had a really big violin that looked like a viola.”
Violas are larger, stringed instruments that look immensely similar to violins, but create deeper tones.
We fast forward, and Ibik found himself with an instrument in hand in the present.
Viola player was not always something a much younger Ibik visualized himself doing.
He imagined himself becoming a basketball star; he was never too fond of football, either.
His mom often pointed out the game’s physical dangers to him growing up, so football was never his first choice.
After getting in trouble at school one day, a counselor suggested football as an alternative for getting into more trouble.
Thinking his mom would nix the idea, Ibik was surprised when she permitted him to play. Ibik accepted the challenge and began to play for the first time when he was in the eighth grade.
“My feet were slow, I was sloppy, I didn’t do good. I was really thinking about quitting at the time. [Then the third day came] and I just went beast mode on the middle school field. I was like whoa, this feels good. This is more of a match for me,” he said.
By the time he was in high school, Ibik began to face more adversity both on the field, and in the orchestra room.
He was still second to last chair in the orchestra, and on the field he was challenged for his starting spot in which he eventually lost three games into the season his senior year.
Feeling defeated, Ibik found new light when his football coach told him that he was getting recruited by Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
With a newfound determination, he began to train harder than he ever had before; perfecting his craft as a player on the field, and also the orchestra room. “I hate being left behind,” Ibik said was his motivation to get better.
After signing his scholarship to play college ball, Ibik also got accepted into the universities Bio Medical program.
However, he still felt something was missing.
Ibik’s viola instructor at the time suggested he look into joining the school orchestra at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
He thought about it, and soon set up an audition in which he played for a scholarship, and received it.
Ibik, now a college student and a freshman all over again began to face similar problems as he did in high school.
The players on the field were bigger, stronger, and faster than Ibik, while at the same time, he was struggling to keep up in the Orchestra.
Given these obstacles, Ibik began to train hard in football and the orchestra, and his hard work paid off tremendously.
While never getting behind with his classes, Ibik became a starter on the defensive line by the time he was a sophomore, which unfortunately got cut short due to an foot injury.
Ibik also got to start playing in concerts as well with the orchestra, although some of the members felt almost as if he didn’t belong.
Now as a senior, Ibik is once again starting on the football team, is a team leader, and even leads the team in prayer.
“I haven’t met a guy that dislikes Ibik,” said Defensive Line Coach Ronnie Palmer.
Ibik also is beginning to mentor the younger chord players in the orchestra, as well as play along side of his personal tutor and teacher, Veronica Salinas, at concerts.
As a senior, Ibik is currently a Resident Advisor for one of the dormitories here at A&M-Kingsville, and has a busy schedule in which he doesn’t even get done with his days until 12 a.m.
Now that his days here at TAMUK as a student are numbered, Ibik plans to attend pharmacy school upon graduating, and hopefully receive an opportunity to play football at the professional level.