The occurrence is rare, but the sound of E.J. Bibbs’ voice is initially startling. The tone that emanates from the 6-foot-3 tight end’s mouth is soft and quiet, almost hard to picture together with the big, powerful body.
Bibbs doesn’t particularly care for the spotlight. The bright lights and long interviews at Big 12 Media Day in Dallas back in August gave him a migraine. He slips by quietly at other times now. On the field, there is no avoiding the limelight, there is no way to do what Bibbs has done and go quietly.
Not when the superlatives are as follows.
“He’s the best tight end in our league,” coach Paul Rhoads has said, “and with that being the case, he might be the best tight end in the country right now.”
“The dude is a freak,” quarterback Sam Richardson adds.
Richardson should know. In the last three games he’s connected with Bibbs on 21 separate occasions, the two combining for 175 yards through the air and five touchdowns in those contests.
“You’ve got pretty big range of where you can throw him the ball and he’s going to come down with it,” Richardson said. “It’s frustrating when you miss him, but he makes a lot of big plays for us.”
In all, Bibbs now has six touchdowns on the season with five games still to play. In his senior season, he’s certainly within range of Iowa State history. Quenton Bundrage brought in nine touchdown receptions last season and Todd Blythe did so twice during his career (2004 and 2005). If the pace keeps up, Bibbs could be well on his way to eclipsing that.
Given where the season started, that’s quite a feat.
“He didn’t practice at all two weeks leading into that North Dakota State game,” Rhoads said of Bibbs, who had meniscus surgery in mid-August. “When you’re an athlete of his size — he was about 260 pounds at that time — and you haven’t done anything conditioning with your body going into those first couple of games, you’re not going to be as effective as you are now.”
The surgery led to a slow start — 11 receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown in the first four games — but the production has certainly picked up. After being bracketed and double-teamed for much of the first third of the season, Bibbs has become more free with other weapons stepping up.
His weight is down to the mid-250s and he played more than 90 snaps in Iowa State’s recent narrow loss to Texas.
“He’s playing All-American caliber right now,” receiver Allen Lazard said.
You just won’t hear that from him.