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March 7, 2012Every time Oklahoma offensive lineman Gabe Ikard walks into a room, there's a pretty good chance he's the smartest guy in the joint.
Ikard carries a 4.0 GPA while majoring in zoology. In 2010, he was named a first-team member of the Academic All-Big 12 team. In 2011, he not only made the Academic All-Big 12 team, he made the regular first team All-Big 12 team, and he was named a second team Capital One Academic All-American.
Needless to say, Ikard is wicked smart, as Casey Affleck would probably say if his name were Will Hunting.
Ikard is also one of the most popular interviews on the Oklahoma team, and it's doubtful he's ever had to go through media training to get that way.
Ikard will answer the questions he's asked. He's honest, he's colorful, but he also knows when you're asking him a loaded question.
He then sidesteps those with ease.
But get him on a subject he wants to talk about, and he'll go deeper than most - as he did when the subject of Landry Jones' return to OU came up on Monday.
"I just didn't understand why people were complaining about (Jones deciding to come back)," said Ikard, who wasn't even asked about fans who wanted to see Jones declare for the NFL. "It's one of those things where you've got the best quarterback in the country coming back on your team and all you keep hearing is fans and people complaining. You're like, 'Stop!'"
Ikard wasn't exaggerating. There were plenty of Sooner fans who would have preferred the Sooners and Jones part ways and move on down the road.
Those fans were frustrated a potential national championship season went down the drain after the Sooners lost a shocker, and the nation's longest home win streak, to a bumbling Texas Tech team.
Those fans blame Jones, fairly or unfairly, for the drop in offensive production after the loss of Ryan Broyles.
If Lebron James thinks people blame him for all the wrongs in the world, like being out of milk, he needs to come to Oklahoma and see what it's like to be a Sooner quarterback in the shadow of Sam Bradford.
For some people, Jones truly is to blame for everything that goes wrong with OU football.
Jones isn't without faults. His two fumbles against Oklahoma State last season opened the door for the Cowboys to rout the Sooners 44-10 in Stillwater. After the game, Jones told reporters he wanted to make a statement about his religious beliefs before he answered questions.
It was the wrong time and wrong place, but it was a little bit more fuel for the haters.
Ikard just doesn't think the criticism of Jones is warranted after seeing it from his side of the ropes.
"People should have been more positive about him coming back because of what he's done for the program and what he did last year and the skillset he has," Ikard continued. "I don't know, I felt like he's under-appreciated a little bit."
Ikard is charged to protect his quarterback from defensive linemen. But it's clear he's also blocking for Jones in the media.
And maybe this is Ikard playing the role of smartest man in the room. With Blake Bell becoming such a fan favorite a year ago and the 'Bell-dozer' taking on its own Tim Tebow/Jeremy Lin-like hysteria levels in Oklahoma, maybe Ikard is sending a message to his locker room - that stuff doesn't belong inside the Switzer Center walls.
"With what he turned down and all that stuff, we really respect him coming back and working toward us winning the championship," said Ikard of Jones. "We're excited to have him back and he's as vocal as he's ever been and he's doing all the right things. He's just being Landry. He's just back again.
"You see his balls on Saturday, but during practice, the level of accuracy he has is something that's really impressive. The throws he can make and how he can touch the ball over linebackers and over safeties, it's one of those things where he's got an NFL arm and it's very apparent when you watch him throw."
Ikard will continue defending his quarterback on and off the field. But at some point, Jones is the one who has to make the plays to make it all go away.
Some of the criticism is unfair. Some of it is warranted.
But when the smartest man in the room says what he has to say, it's usually advice worth taking.
"He's the leader of the team and we all know that," said Ikard. "We're just very, very thankful to have him back."