ABBOTSFORD — Don’t try to tell Vince Ibardolaza what he’d can’t do on the football field.
Instead, take a seat and watch what the undersized 5-foot-7, 210-pound offensive lineman with Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham Grizzlies can do.
“He is really stoic and as even-keeled as they come, but a lot of that is his quiet confidence” Grizzlies head coach Luke Acheson said proudly on Wednesday after the B.C. Secondary Schools Football Association announced Ibardolaza as the 2020 recipient of the Kevin Chin Memorial Scholarship award, honouring the player who best exemplifies leadership, academics and the ability to overcome adversity.
“But the other thing about Vince, is that he knows that every time he straps on his helmet, that he is in for a battle,” continued Acheson. “He has to play his best. Some of the guys coming at him are 6-5…. a full foot taller, but I know that is a challenge that he accepts. He really enjoys coming out on the better end of that battle.”
On Wednesday, fresh off one of his thrice-weekly weight room sessions, Ibardolaza was catching his breath as he looked hopefully to the future.
“It’s something I really want badly,” he says when asked about potentially getting an opportunity to play somewhere next season at the university or college level.
“I don’t know if I am going to get a lot of offers, or any offers at all, but it would honestly mean the world to me to play at the next level,” he says. I will prove myself. I proved myself last season by playing with the best in the province.”
Ibardolaza finished his 2019 season by suiting up and then starting in the B.C. High School All-Star game at B.C. Place Stadium a year ago. Of course, the entire 2020 B.C. high school football season was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was nervous,” he admits, “but once we went through our practice, and I got into the flow, I was able to play my game,” he says.
Hearing him explain it is like putting pure physics into play on the gridiron.
“Whenever I am on the field, I am just a lot lower than everyone else,” Ibardolaza begins. “It’s all from leverage. I am already down so low, they can’t reach me, they can’t reach my shoulder pads. I am already there. I explode fast. It’s all about explosion. I am the first one there to lay my hands on the player and I just push my feet.”
If you’re doing some mental sketching, shade in a motorized fire-plug on wheels and you’re not too far off.
“He’s the ultimate fire-plug,” agrees Acheson, who played two years of senior varsity along the offensive line (1993, ’94) during his own high school years at Abbotsford Secondary.
“The great thing about Vince is that he plays with passion and aggression and has the work ethic,” Acheson says. “He has the golden intangibles and he spends so much time in the weight room. He has a super low centre of gravity, with great leverage and technique and he’s got a pair of tree trunks. It’s just super tough for other guys to deal with.”
And if his lack of height might be seen as a negative to many, Ibardolaza does not dwell on it. He doesn’t deny it, but he also carries himself as if he was a foot taller.
Ibardolaza came to G.W. Graham in the ninth grade with a year of community football under his belt, flowing into a middle linebacker spot.
Yet he suffered a serious knee injury in the opening game of the Grizzlies’ 2018 JV season, and when he returned in time for a playoff run which would conclude with a B.C. championship under the dome, Acheson encouraged him to give the offensive a line a shot.
The results spoke for themselves in a 69-27 win over North Vancouver’s Windsor Dukes in that season’s B.C. Double A JV final.
Over the 2019 campaign, he grew into the position with, as Acheson earlier described, “a quiet confidence.”
“He was the leader of that offensive line, he had a kind of unspoken ‘follow me if you can’ kind of a way about him.”
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