Frost covered the grass. Cleats could not gain traction from the stone-cold ground. A boy stands on the sidelines wearing only his uniform for warmth, cheering for his teammates in the final game of the season. He knows he won’t play.
That boy grew up to be Kapri Bibbs. Chicago Offensive Player of the Year, owner of 26 high school records, two-time Southwest Prairie League MVP, who had 61 touchdowns and 4,210 yards across just two years of high school football.
But that was high school.
Bibbs had to start all over again when he came to Fort Collins last spring. He was forced to be the little boy, cheering from the sidelines until he could prove himself to coach Jim McElwain and his teammates.
Six-hundred plus rushing yards, nine touchdowns and half of a season later, Bibbs has done it. He has proved not only to his team, but to the community the kind of player he is. And he loved every ounce of blood and sweat he lost on the way.
“If there is something he wants to do, he is going to go all the way into it,” his mother Stacey Griffin said. “He played volleyball, bowled, ran track, he coached a powder puff team; anything that was around him, he was involved in. It’s who he is, it’s what he does.”
Griffin taught her son to work for what he wanted, because nobody else was going to do it for him. Bibbs took that advice to heart and ran with it, transforming it into a mantra all his own. After the storied high school career he left behind, Bibbs could have gone to any number of schools. But he stuck with the team that had a combined 6-18 record during the last two years of his high school tenure.
“He respected that they were giving him looks before he became a phenomenon,” Griffin said. “He could have gone to any school he wanted to, but he said ‘I’m a person of my word. I told CSU I was coming, I’m going to be there.’ This kid is unbelievable.”
After a mishap with his ACT scores, Bibbs was initially ineligible to attend CSU straight out of high school. Instead of deterring his drive, that setback fueled Bibbs to new heights. He earned his Associate’s degree, which usually takes two years, in three semesters from Snow College, all while rushing for 415 yards and six touchdowns for the Badgers.
Bibbs attended Front Range last fall before enrolling at Colorado State in the spring, where the real work began.
“I remember when he came last spring, he was struggling,” offensive tackle Jared Biard said. “It’s tough what we go through in the off-season. The young guys have to check themselves mentally to see if you really want to do that for the next four years.”
Center Weston Richburg added: “He worked really hard in the spring, he came in and immediately gained our respect.”
But respect doesn’t always equal playing time, as Bibbs had to learn. He entered the season listed third on the depth chart, behind running backs Chris Nwoke and his roommate Donnell Alexander.
The words of his mother and the experiences in his past gave Bibbs the juice he needed to bust his butt earning his position as starter.
Often times, when a person reaches the level of success that Bibbs has, it changes them, and not always for the better. But Griffin gave her son another golden nugget of advice: remember your humble beginnings.
“He will never take the credit, if you give him a compliment, he starts blushing,” she says. “It makes you love him more. He motivates me — and I’m supposed to be the mother.”
Bibbs hasn’t changed from that fifth-grade boy on the sidelines. Even without the touchdowns, the breakaways, the crazy yardage – he’s still a player worth looking at.
“When I see him after a game, I don’t say ‘great game,’” Griffin said. “I say, ‘Thank you, God, for keeping you safe,’ whether he plays or doesn’t play; he’s all that matters to us.”Football Beat Reporter Cali Rastrelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.