At 5-10 and 210 pounds, Mohamed Ibrahim might not be the biggest running back in the Big Ten. "I'm not the fastest, I'm not the strongest," he also acknowledged.
In 2020, however, Ibrahim was the best running back in the Big Ten.
The conference acknowledged that Tuesday when it named Ibrahim its Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year, rewarding the junior who's been the most productive rusher in the conference this season.
Ibrahim, a Baltimore native who runs with a relentless, physical style, leads the Big Ten in rushing (975 yards), rushing yards per game (154.2) carries (175), carries per game (29.2) and rushing touchdowns (15), and he's done so by large margins over his nearest pursuers.
• Ibrahim's rushing total is 163 more than Tyler Goodson of Iowa, who has played eight games to Ibrahim's six.
• His TD total is seven more than Indiana's Stevie Scott, who has played one more game.
• His yards per game are 25.2 more than Maryland's Jake Funk.
• He also has 33 more carries than Goodson, and his carries per game are 9.6 more than Scott's average.
"He's very deserving of the award; I think he's the best running back in the country," Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan said. "It's his ability to break tackles and do the unrequired work — the little things people may not even notice — he's even amazing at pass protection."
Ibrahim is the first Gopher to earn the Big Ten's top running back honor, which was established in 2011. Ever humble, he quickly shifted credit to those who clear his path.
"The first thing I did was talked to my 'O' line, my tight ends and my wide receivers, just to say thank you for everything they've done," Ibrahim said. " … We work together, and I had to thank them first."
Ibrahim has surpassed 100 rushing yards every game this season, a stat that will be tested Saturday at Wisconsin against a Badgers defense that is allowing a Big Ten-best 83.2 rushing yards per game and that has given up only one rushing TD.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck credits Ibrahim for his perseverance and work ethic as a true freshman in 2017, when he had duties on the scout team.
"The first year he was here, he literally got beat up every single day. Playing scout team running back from Day One all the way through the end of the season, that's incredibly difficult," Fleck said in November. "He never missed a practice, never missed a day, got better and never complained about it. … He was going to use that as growth, and that's what you see today."
Ibrahim remembers those days as tough but necessary.
"It was very humbling to go to scout team from being the best player [in high school]," he said. "But understanding that that's your role for the year and you have to grow from it. I looked at it each week as me going against the No. 1 defense. I didn't look at it as a downgrade anymore. I looked it as a growing opportunity. Going against people like Duke [McGhee], Jon Celestin and Steven Richardson, I got better and better."
Ibrahim was the Gophers' lone representative on the All-Big Ten first team in both the media and coaches' votes. Minnesota had three players on the media's all-conference third team: tackle Blaise Andries, wide receiver Rashod Bateman and guard Conor Olson. Bateman, last year's Big Ten receiver of the year who opted out after five games this season, made the coaches' third team.
Receiving honorable mention for the Gophers were quarterback Tanner Morgan (coaches, media), center John Michael Schmitz (coaches, media), Olson (coaches), Andries (coaches) and offensive tackle Sam Schlueter (coaches, media).