Kwinten Ives struck new Nebraska running backs coach EJ Barthel as a college football player. The kind of exceptional talent he could coach and mold at the next level. It wasn’t eye-popping statistics or state records. It was how workman-like runs up the middle exploded into splash plays like dynamite in a dam.
Palmyra High School head coach Jack Geisel has coached Ives since the young man moved from Virginia to New Jersey. Ives missed the first few games of his career at Palmyra because he just moved and didn’t have enough practices with his new team. During those practices, however, Geisel saw the potential. He thought Palmyra had the next great linebacker but he wondered if a few early targeting calls didn’t give Ives second thoughts about running full speed at the ball carrier. One day in practice, Geisel leaned over to an assistant coach and asked, “He reminds me of somebody, doesn’t he?” The two coaches agreed, he looked like former Washington Commanders receiver Kelvin Harmon, another Palmyra graduate.
“Just what he does and his work during practice,” Geisel rationalized. “How if you throw a ball up, he’s going to go get it.”
Ives is undoubtedly faster than Harmon, that they all agreed. He showed his speed in Palmyra’s final game this past season. Riverside’s offense drove into Palmyra territory just before halftime when Ives grabbed an interception inside his own 10 and ran into open space.
“When he got to the 50 there was three kids that had the angle that probably would have pushed him out of bounds,” Geisel said. “He turned on, all of a sudden, speed we hadn’t seen, especially on the football field, and just hit overdrive and outran those three kids. They had the angle!”
Ives scored the pick-6 before halftime and Palmyra went on to win 50-26. The Panthers finished 5-4 with three losses by one score. Despite only playing in nine games, Ives led South New Jersey in touchdowns with 31. Twenty-six of those were rushing but he also scored receiving and on both kickoff and punt returns.
It’s no surprise, Ives is a standout sprinter and jumper during track season. Geisel said if the team ever needs points in throwing events, he’ll enter Ives into the shot put and discus, where he registers 100-foot tosses. He also averages over 25 points per game during basketball season. Geisel thought Ives might not have gained a high star ranking because he chose other sports instead of showcases and 7-on-7 camps.
“Any time he’s every really been in the weight room is in the summer or during football season because he’s playing,” Geisel said. “Basketball season, track season, he’s right into the next thing. That’s where I think he’s easily, between the right nutrition and the right strength program, he’ll easily be 200 pounds by next September. He’s got like 0% body fat.”
Rutgers and Temple initially recruited Ives. Then EJ Barthel got the running backs coach job at UConn. Geisel tipped Barthel to his standout and suggested the Huskies take a look at him. The two met at a June football camp and Barthel wanted him to work out, just to see what position he’d fit best. Barthel offered him a scholarship. Then Nebraska hired Matt Rhule. That news didn’t register on Geisel’s radar until the following Tuesday when he drove to work and Barthel texted him. He checked the text when he got to work. Keep it between us, he said, I’m going to Nebraska.
Geisel kind of chuckled. Then he thought of Ives. His standout athlete hadn’t committed to UConn but really liked Barthel. If Ives committed to UConn but his recruiter left, that would leave him in limbo. Geisel processed this and typed the question. Barthel texted again before Geisel could hit send.
“Hey, and I’m taking Kwinten to Nebraska, too,” Geisel remembered the message.
Ives asked Geisel for advice during the recruiting process. The high school head coach suggested he decide to either stick by a guy who’d been there or wait for a late offer. Nebraska offered Ives on November 29. Barthel was once again in his living room on December 5. Ives arrived in Lincoln for his official visit last weekend and committed on Sunday, December 11. He’ll likely start as a running back, working directly with Barthel.