Shrine Bowl Interview: Year As A Coach Helped Set Up Monster Season For Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim

University of Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim was in the midst of torching Ohio State in the opening game of his fifth-year senior season with 30 carries for 163 yards and two touchdowns. With Minnesota trailing 31-21 late in the fourth quarter though, Ibrahim ruptured his achilles tendon and wouldn’t play again in 2021. In an interview at the Luxor Hotel during Shrine Bowl Week with Steelers Depot, Ibrahim discussed how he spent his season on the sidelines, his impressive final season at Minnesota and his NFL future.

After suffering the injury, Ibrahim decided he wanted to stay involved with the program and help out his teammates. In talking to Minnesota Head Coach P.J. Fleck, Ibrahim expressed to Fleck that he felt like he was a coach while rehabbing his injury. In return, Fleck got Ibrahim involved with the coaching staff and had him going to staff meetings.

“I talked to Coach Fleck one day and I was like, listen, I feel like I’m a coach. And he was like, ‘well, go be a coach.’ And I was like, what you mean? He was like, ‘go be a coach.’ So they put me in the offensive staff room and I was learning how they make plays, how they make the play sheet, what goes into it, what’s the mindset like going into it. So I learned how to be a coach for a year. So then when I came back for another year, I had a whole game plan. Okay, that’s what I gotta do, do throughout the week. Tuesday, I gotta do this Wednesday, I gotta do this Thursday, I gotta do this Friday, I gotta do that. So I set up a game plan, stuck to it, and I had a great year this year.”

Ibrahim said he still planned on going pro after his injury, until he was informed he would likely go undrafted due to the nature of his injury. As a result, he committed even more to the program and did as much as possible to get better for his sixth season, which would be one of the best in program history.

In Ibrahim’s sixth season at Minnesota, the running back ran the ball 203 times for 1,665 yards and 20 touchdowns en route to becoming the Gopher’s single-season rushing yards leader, single-season rushing touchdowns record, as well as their career rushing yards and rushing touchdowns leader. All those records were set during the last game of Ibrahim’s college career, a 28-20 win over Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl.

“I was just playing ball, just going at it, just having fun. And then, [Minnesota Running Backs Coach Kenni] Burns pulled me out and was like, ‘listen, you hit all your goals, man. You set a career bro, you got nothing else to prove for us. Just go out there and live your dream and go chase your goals for the NFL,’” Ibrahim said. “I’m just thankful for my teammates. I couldn’t have got it done without them.”

Ibrahim also talked about playing for Fleck, a man who he says taught him more than just football.

“He was always the same high-energy, consistent type of guy,” Ibrahim said about his former coach. “He was the first millionaire I met, coming from Baltimore, so it was just like, ok, let me get some keys from him. So I got financial keys, everything outside of football,” he continued. “Just became a better man ‘cause he had some stuff I’ve never heard before, He taught me about credit, stuff like that.”

Watching Ibrahim on tape, his patience is one of his best skills. He’s able to wait for blocks to develop before hitting the hole, and when he does he usually fights through contact and breaks forward for extra yards. While Ibrahim isn’t the biggest guy, measuring at 5’7 and 203 pounds, he excels at getting yards after first contact.

“That starts with Coach [Kenni] Burns, he instilled in all the running backs that the play starts after the first tackle,” Ibrahim said. “The first tackle never brings you down”

Ibrahim said two running backs he models himself after are former Houston Texans power back Arian Foster and former Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson. He also said he enjoys watching Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, “even though he went to Wisconsin.”

Despite his college experience and his year as a coach, Ibrahim knows he’ll have to earn his role in the NFL.

“I have to work and earn it,” Ibrahim said. “The NFL, those guys get paid, they gotta take care of their families too. Just understanding the game at another high-level,” he added. “These guys are playing football all day, every day. So I gotta step my game up more and I gotta do the same thing and I gotta make my game even that much better.”

The running back position may not end up being a need for Pittsburgh this offseason, but Ibrahim’s a guy who I think could stick in the NFL for a long time. He’s a really smart player, and surely the year learning and soaking up information from his coaches at Minnesota helped. Despite his small stature, he’s a powerful guy and a skilled runner, as his college stats and tape show. He could end up being a potential steal for someone in the middle-late rounds of the draft.

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