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  • Peter Miller

SGG #63: Rachid Ibrahim: "Be where your feet are"

The SGG podcast's special series, "Football in Wisconsin," examines the game from multiple angles. We learn about important historical foundations of the UW program -- not the wins and losses, but the ways programs were built and lives are affected. We hear from coaches, competitors, and others who have played key roles in football in Wisconsin. The SGG special series uses an embedded approach with particular emphasis on leadership. The series aims to advance the "growing good" that leaders can promote in and through sports.

Rachid Ibrahim was a standout student and football player at the University of Pittsburgh and, after earning his bachelor’s degree, at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a master’s degree. Rachid won awards and accolades as a running back, but even more, was an exemplar son, brother, friend, student, and teammate throughout his athletic career. Rachid continues to inspire others with his message of resilience and positivity. He joined the SGG podcast and we discussed:

1.  His father passed away when Rachid was five years old. His mother, an immigrant from West Africa, raised him and his brother on her own. “She saw that sports was something that would keep us out of trouble and keep us doing well in school.”

2.  Being spotted with a Senegal soccer jersey in the grocery store… and starting football that same week.

3.  Middle school coaches “saw potential in me that I didn’t even see in myself.”

4.  “She (his mom) got herself a bachelors and a master’s degree while raising us. Academics were always the first thing for us.”

5.  “She knew I was going to handle the football part. She was just concerned about the academics…When I had a chance to pursue a master’s degree, she was really excited. That was what she was most excited about when I came to Wisconsin…That was amazing to her. It was unbelievable to her…I had the opportunity to go to two great schools, Pitt and Wisconsin. Never in my life did I ever think I would be in Wisconsin.”

6.  Facing a torn achilles tendon “I remember crying when they told me my season was over…It was tough, mentally. But then my roommate James Connor got hurt and we kind of fed off each other. We were going to help each other…That’s what the college journey teaches you. Adversity and getting through it.”

7.  Supporting his teammate and friend in his battle against cancer.

8.  “Adversity is something that, if you attack it with a mindset, you can overcome it. With great people in your corner, you can overcome it.”

9.  His relationship with “Coach Chryst, Coach Rudolph, Coach Settle, they’re some of the best people out there. I’m real grateful for all of them. They brough me into the college football journey…I remember as a high school student, sitting in Coach Chryst’s office at the University of Pittsburgh and he offered me a full scholarship. It was one of the happiest days of my life. I’m forever grateful for him. He’s out there leading young men all over the country and giving them opportunities to get a college education and play football…Just having those relationships with those coaches meant a lot to me.”

10.   “The coaches always believed in me.”

11.   His opinions on student-athlete transfer policies.

12.   What Rachid meant when he said, “These guys don’t know how good they have it” a year after he finished his career. “The college football experience is something so unique that very few people get to experience…I was just thinking, ‘Wow, there will never be another time that it will feel like this. That you’ll get to do this again…Nothing will compare. Nothing will bring that feeling again… These are the best times of your life. Being with your brothers…Being a part of that brotherhood, I was just real appreciative that I got to be a part of that for five years at Pitt and Wisconsin…Understanding the blessing we had.”

13.  One of his favorite sayings: “Be where your feet are.”

14.   “I don’t feel like I was supposed to be here. But I am. It would be a shame if I didn’t maximize it.”

**Special thanks to SGG's Maria Dehnert for her excellent research on Rachid's journey!