Walking on to a Division I football team isn’t easy – for a walk-on to earn a scholarship is even more difficult. Eastern Michigan University redshirt junior linebacker Great Ibe (pronounced “e-bay”) did just that.
Two years ago, he transferred from Concordia University-Ann Arbor, which is about five minutes north of campus – if you take Geddes Road.
“I just wanted to always be a part of building something great and building something that is strong – that I could look back on and be proud of,” Ibe said. “That’s why I picked Eastern Michigan.”
Ibe said he’s been playing football for as long as he can remember.
“I’ve been playing since 1999, I think,” Ibe said. “Every memory I’ve had, I have football in it. I remember I always had a lot of energy, was always bouncing off the walls, so I think football was a good fit for me growing up.”
Ibe said he’s looking forward to earning his degree and figuring out what the next step in his life is going to be, after football.
He said he’s learned a great deal from his current teammates, as well as some former Eagles.
“Pudge [Cotton] was a big guy who I talked to a lot when I first got here,” Ibe said. “Sean Kurtz was a strong guy that really helped me out a lot. Learning from other people’s mistakes – things I saw when I was a redshirt – helped me to become a better player.”
Ibe said he likes to unwind like many EMU students do – by watching Netflix and hanging out with his roommates.
“I actually live with five other football players, so we just like to chill and relax,” he said.
How is it living with five other football players?
“It’s good,” Ibe said. “[There are] a lot of Dom’s trips – going to get a lot of donuts and just relaxing. It’s a good time.”
Cotton, a defensive co-captain, said that Ibe works hard to earn his accomplishments on the field.
“He’s a man,” Cotton said. “If you watched the first two games, he’s on every tackle, every play – he works hard. For you to earn a scholarship – a Division I scholarship as a walk-on, that says a lot. He’s definitely a leader on defense with OC [Pat O’Connor] and he brings energy every day to practice, [he] works hard, he expects that from other people – demands that of other people – and he’s a playmaker.”
EMU coach Chris Creighton said that Ibe stood out to him in the offseason. An offseason injury to Ike Spearman – one of the team’s starting linebackers – opened the door for Ibe to see extended playing time.
“I went to Coach McCaslin – it was after Ike [Spearman] suffered his injury and I’ve always known he [Ibe] was a great football player and he’s got a lot inside of him, but it was probably the practice immediately following that where I saw him emerge as a leader, and he has not turned back since that time,” Creighton said. “His passion for the game and the way he plays it is inspiring. I think he’s a winner and I get excited about thinking about him playing and leading our team.”
Ibe has already made an impact this season – he’s made 32 total tackles, of which 21 were unassisted. He’s also credited with 3.5 tackles for loss and half a sack – in three games.
Great Ibe’s Football Card (credit:emueagles.com)
Full Name: Kelechukwu Great Ibe
Weight: 230 lbs
Hometown: Hanover, Md.
High School: Meade High School
2014 (to date):
Games Played: 3
Total tackles: 32 (21 solo, 11 assists) – 3.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks
Career (to date):
Games Played: 15
Total Tackles: 84 (39 solo, 45 assists)
Fumble Recoveries: 0
Defensive Touchdowns: 0
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho