Goff Rugby Twitter     Goff Rugby Facebook

DI College Men Player of the Fall - Jihad Khabir

irish rugby tours

DI College Men Player of the Fall - Jihad Khabir

David Barpal photo.

In making AIC the #1 DI men’s college team in the fall I had to make a few assumptions, because AIC didn’t play everyone in the country; I had to make assumptions based on the style of play, and the athleticism, and the type of players other teams have.

Could I be wrong? Certainly, but before November 21 many would have felt that AIC v Clemson was a pick ‘em game - Clemson, after all dominated the ACRL and beat Arkansas State last year. But when those two played each other, AIC ran away with it 54-21. And while AIC beat Penn State, which beat Kutztown, that’s about as close as we can get to a direct AIC/Indiana comparison.

All of this is to say that at some point, a rugby observer has to make judgments independent of direct comparisons. You have to have a standard. 

This is how we get, eventually, to Jihad Khabir. Objectively, he is the most dynamic and game-changing player on a team that won all of its games this fall, including six ranked opponents. Subjectively, he is as exciting an attacking threat as I’ve seen. He can accelerated to top speed through the tiniest of gaps, and then ratchet it down to cruising speed, faster, still, than most everyone’s best. I haven't seen him against all of the best teams, but I've seen a lot of good players over the years - he's got the ability to beat anyone.

He can pass - enough that his teammates score plenty of their own tries, and he’s learning to kick a little better. The complete package? Not yet. He hasn’t had to defend a whole lot and when you’re on a team that can go from its own trine to the 50 on the ground, kicking isn’t all that necessary. But … if you’re looking for a player who sets the game on fire, Jihad Khabir is it. He is not a kick-for-territory and pass-it-off flyhalf. He breaks the line. He breaks it wide open. He is a running flyhalf who can score or create for others.

And while many want to be like that, Khabir has the speed, intelligence, and analytical mind to make it happen at a high level. 

I’ve spoken to Khabir about the game, and he’s not just an athletic kid who makes it up as he goes along. He’s well-coached, and he gives me the distinct impression that he’s not overly impressed with his ability. He credits his midfield (Jacob Ponder and Adrian Ray), and he knows he has much to learn.

“Right now,” he told me earlier this fall, “rugby is second to school. I am just trying to take it to the next level and go as far as I can go.”

You kind of get the feeling that is how he approaches every play.