It wasn’t long ago that Schlagle senior running back Ivan Webb had to spread out a thin blanket and settle his growing body onto the tile of his mother’s kitchen in Leavenworth.
It was the only place in the house where he could find enough warmth to sleep, provided he could keep the stove on.
Those were the dark days. The days before he moved in with his grandparents in Kansas City, Kan., and joined the Schlagle football team as a sophomore.
Those were the days before Webb, the leading rusher in the state of Kansas this fall, became a Missouri State football signee during the NCAA’s early signing period on Wednesday.
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“I had terrible experiences in my childhood. I wouldn’t put them on my worst enemy,” said Webb, whose father died when he was in fifth grade. “But I made it out because of my grandfather. If it wasn’t for him, I’d probably be dead, to be completely honest.”
Webb doesn’t mean that lightly. He grew up impoverished, his childhood mired in instability. He often found himself woken in the middle of the night just so he could pack his things and move houses. He frequented food banks and donation centers.
Unlike many of his peers, he didn’t have the opportunity to play youth football and begin honing his athletic skills at a young age.
But he refused to let misfortune dictate his future.
“I did see the light at the end of the tunnel, even when it got so dark to where it was just a speck of light,” Webb said. “I still walked, I was still chugging.”
Inspired by his grandfather Oscar — who took Webb in despite having been retired from a 34-year career at General Motors for a decade — Webb started working at a fast-food restaurant as soon as he turned 16. He brought home paychecks, and for the first time in his life was able to buy his own clothes.
When he had the opportunity to play in Nike’s 7-on-7 national circuit with Epic 7 Midwest, Webb saved the $750 he needed for dues and paid his own way onto the team. That’s how, following a junior season competing with future Kansas State running back Cornelius Ruff for touches, Webb wound up on Missouri State coach Dave Steckel’s radar.
And after a senior campaign in which he rushed for 2,842 yards and 35 touchdowns, Webb committed to the Bears with no hesitation.
“After the struggles he went through, I’m proud of him,” Oscar Webb said. “It’s tough to talk about. It hurts me so much. So I’m proud every time. I think about how when he was struggling, all he talked about was football. He stuck with it. It kept him focused.
“It’s kind of a sad story, but it’s something you’re really proud of. It’s uplifting.”