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Gophers’ Mo Ibrahim details his return from Achilles injury

‘I just wanted to walk again and I had to run again. … There are like little steps, steps, steps’

MOHAMED_IBRAHIM.JPG
Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim (24) rushes with the ball in the first half against the Northwestern Wildcats on Nov. 17, 2018, at TCF Bank Stadium.
Jesse Johnson / USA Today Sports
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Minnesota Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim understands what it’s like to be on the mountain top. He won the Big Ten Running Back of the Year Award in 2020 after rushing for 1,076 yards and 15 touchdowns on 201 carries in only seven games.

Ibrahim also knows how precipitous the fall can be.

In the 2021 season opener against Ohio State, Ibrahim ran 30 times for 163 yards and two touchdowns through three quarters before his Achilles tendon ruptured, ending his season there.

He decided in December to return for his sixth season and says he’s 100 percent healthy. He’s been showing it during the first two weeks of summer camp. He spoke to media members for the first time on Tuesday; here are some highlights.

What was your reaction when the injury happened?
When I first got hurt, I thought it was just a cramp. They didn’t tell me what it actually was until I was walking up to the locker room. It was surprising, but I put it in God’s hands, whatever he want me to go through, I go through. … My mom (Latoya) … motivated me to just go through it with a high spirit, high energy — don’t put my head down, don’t let nobody see what I’m going through.

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Last winter, a U of M spokesperson said you were in ‘Black Mamba mode.’ What is that?
I didn’t know what the Achilles injuries really was until I did my research after I got the surgery. Then I realized that Kobe (Bryant) went through the same thing. There’s a little documentary (“Kobe Bryant’s Muse”) where he talks about the injury and all the things he had to go through. It just motivated me because I always looked up to Kobe. And I love his mindset and how he separated his person, his character … off the court and on the court.

How much thought went into potentially going to the NFL versus coming back?
It was an on-and-off conversation with Coach (P.J.) Fleck, Coach (Kenni) Burns and people I actually trusted. … I knew they were going to tell me what I needed to hear and I believed in them. I think I made the right decision. Once I made a decision, I stuck to it. … I’m happy for the decision I made. And I’m just moving forward.

In a video you said rehabbing for 2022 was the toughest thing you’ve ever done. What made it so difficult? 
As you’ve seen when I first got hurt, I was on a scooter. Not being able to walk; that’s the tough thing. Just understanding that … it was little things you look past like it was nothing. So, just being able to walk, learn how to walk again. Being able to run, learning how to run again, stuff like that that I took for granted. And now I don’t look past anything and I’m grateful for everything that come to me.

MORE MINNESOTA GOPHERS COVERAGE:
Minnesota hosts Purdue on Saturday for its homecoming game
Victory marked first time Minnesota won in East Lansing since 2009
The 27-point win over the Spartans was Minnesota's closest game this season.
Minnesota travels to Michigan State to open up Big Ten play on Saturday
Minnesota is collecting data on how much players are exerting on the field and when they might be on the verge of an injury
Autman-Bell accounted for 23% of the Gophers’ targets through 3 weeks
Geary will be part of a group of wideouts asked to step up as No. 1 pass-catching target Chris Autman-Bell was lost to a season-ending leg injury against the Buffaloes.
Minnesota has been all business against three incredibly weak programs: arguably the worst Division I outfit in New Mexico State, a rebuilding FCS team in Western Illinois and possibly the worst Power Five program in Pac-12 member Colorado. Those three teams are a combined 0-10 this season.
The East has all the ranked teams but the West should be wild, with Minnesota in the hunt for its first Big Ten title of any sort since 1967
Gophers have outscored their opponents 149-17 through 3 games

What was the connection you had with Trey Potts and Bryce Williams after they had season-ending injuries?
When we all went down, we all was in the weight room working out with each other, motivating each other, pushing each other. … We had our own little (weight) rack and we would just motivate each other.

What is your message to anyone who may be facing adversity in their life, now that you’ve gone through something like that?
Never lose faith. You’re going to have hard days, you’re gonna have tough days where you think that you’re looking at the top of Mount Everest and you’re thinking, “Hey, I’ve gotta get there. I gotta get there.” But you got to break it down into little sections. Like I said, at first I just wanted to walk again. I was on a scooter. I just wanted to walk again and I had to run again. … There are like little steps, steps, steps. And then you look down and realize you’re at the top of Mount Everest.

BRIEFLY

Receiver Daniel Jackson sat out Tuesday’s practice; he was spotted on the sideline with a protective boot on his left foot. … JJ Guedet, one of three players competing for the starting right tackle spot, participated in practice. He was absent during Saturday’s open session. …Defensive tackle Logan Richter didn’t practice and had a splint on his left ankle. … During a team portion of practice, Tyler Nubin stood up Trey Potts and a scuffle broke out. Head coach Fleck immediately called both players over for an extended chat.

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