When Joe Igber visits Hawaii next month, it will be his first time home in five years.
The 1999 ‘Iolani graduate, whose all-time career rushing record that has lasted 17 years is in danger tonight at Aloha Stadium, means no disrespect to Mililani’s Vavae Malepeai when he says he’s never heard of him. Truth be told, he couldn’t name a single player on ‘Iolani’s current roster and didn’t even know the ILH was split into divisions.
Igber’s passions in life have always been about things that have nothing to do with a football field. At Cal, he’s still fourth on its career rushing list, trailing only Charles White, Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett. His 226 rushing yards against Stanford in his final game in 2002 remain the most by a Cal player ever against the rival Cardinal.
Yet, the NFL was never his dream. He wanted to be an engineer and he had his sights set on a successful life away from football.
So when Igber, who lives in the Bay Area, found out Thursday that Malepeai was only 138 yards away from breaking his career mark of 4,428 yards, he quickly responded with the only thing he knew.
“A hundred something yards? That’s it?,” Igber asked. “He should have that in the first quarter.”
Igber quickly expanded on the comment, realizing he was talking to a reporter. “No, no, I shouldn’t say that. I don’t want to bachi him. I wish all the best to that young man. Give him all the best from me and hopefully maybe I can talk to him one day.”
His initial reaction was telling of just how talented Igber was. There was no ego, no showboating, nothing along those lines. He was just a rare talent that had a different take on a sport that so many people live and die for.
“We didn’t even have a JV team and we barely had enough bodies for a varsity team,” Igber recalled of his high school days. “I played because nobody else was around to hang out with. All of the guys I knew played football and so I wanted to hang out with them. I didn’t want to be by myself.”
Igber just wanted to be a part of the crew, but his talents quickly made him a budding superstar.
He led the Raiders in rushing in all 30 ILH games he played and he set the career record in the Prep Bowl era, when statistics from nonleague games before the start of conference play didn’t count.
After a modest sophomore season in which he ran for 766 yards and nine TDs in 10 games, Igber opened everyone’s eyes as a junior, when in consecutive games against Kamehameha, Pac-Five and Punahou, he ran for 202, 262 and 216 yards respectively. He ended the season with a 240-yard game against Damien to finish with 1,550 yards that season, and an entire senior year to come.
His senior season is regarded as one of the best all-time. He had nine 100-yard games in 10 tries and went over 200 yards in half of those. His 352-yard, 5-touchdown performance against Pac-Five is the third-highest single game total ever, but it’s the 204 yards against eventual Prep Bowl champion Saint Louis in a 77-42 loss that remains one of the best performances anyone has ever seen.
Saint Louis hadn’t given up 42 point to a team in 38 years and the Crusaders were allowing only 45 yards on the ground a game until Igber, who was 5-foot-7 and 185 pounds, put up over 200 himself.
“You’ve got to remember now, the thing about Joe is some of his linemen were just as big as he was. That’s how talented he was,” ‘Iolani coach Wendell Look said. “Joe would just try to juke you and get around you where (Malepeai) will try to run you over. They’re two very different runners and there’s no question Vavae is one of the elite runners in the history of our Hawaii high school football.”
Igber finished with 4,428 yards and 56 touchdowns. His TD mark was broken this season by Malepeai, who enters Friday night’s state semifinal game against Saint Louis with 70 career rushing touchdowns.
Should the record go down, Igber would be first in line to congratulate Malepeai if he was here. After all, he couldn’t believe his mark still existed.
“I never imagined we’d be here almost 20 years after the fact,” Igber said. “I’m very surprised because I’m sure there’s been a lot of athletic people to play (football) since. Hopefully (the record) goes down to this young man, who sounds like a great person, in this game. I wish him all the best and good luck.”
Career and Single-Season Rushing leaders
Updated: Nov. 22, 2019
|CAREER (Min. 3,500 yards)|
|Jonan Aina-Chaves||St. Francis/Campbell||2017-19||29||513||37||3,739|
|Pesefea Fiaseu||Saint Louis||1998-2000||38||397||51||3,543|
|SEASON (Min. 2,000 yards)|
*Malepeai enters Friday night with 1,672 yards and 27 touchdowns this season.