DALLAS — E.J. Bibbs wanted the bright lights, the spotlight, the limelight. It's why he chose Iowa State over Oklahoma and Texas Tech, because he knew he could be the guy in the Cyclones' offense and, as he put it Tuesday at Big 12 Media Days: "Does it look better if I beat Oklahoma and have 11 receptions with 160 yards or does it look better if I beat Iowa State with 11 receptions? Beat big teams."
The Cyclones' senior tight end got the effulgence he was looking for in Dallas. And it gave him a headache.
"I've got a nice little migraine right now," Bibbs said.
About 20 minutes into a breakout interview session featuring the Big 12's best players, Bibbs excused himself. When he returned, he asked an ISU media relations staffer for two Advils and a cup of water.
"There's too many lights flickering," Bibbs said with a laugh. "But, it's great being here, people coming up and talking to you is a huge honor to me and I really appreciate it."
The lights — it gives us an appropriate excuse to discuss Bibbs' role in the Cyclones offense in the buildup to 2014. Bibbs caught 39 passes last season, 13th among all tight ends, for 462 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 261-pounder from Chicago, by way of Arizona Western JUCO, figures to take center stage in Mark Mangino's offense.
"The best tight end in the Big 12," is what head coach Paul Rhoads called Bibbs on Tuesday. That's reflected by his spot on the preseason all-conference team.
The headache — a convenient way to segue into the matchup issues Bibbs poses in the middle of the field. He's an athletic freak — "I did a backflip a couple days ago in our practice facility," he said — with superb hands, good size, great speed and underrated blocking ability.
When reporters were treated to ISU's first spring practice in March, Bibbs knifed through the middle of the back-seven on a seam route and caught a bullet from Grant Rohach. Seventy-yards later, a few defensive backs in his dust, Bibbs was in the end zone.
Bibbs said he's looking to catch around 70 passes in 2014. Such a number, daunting as it is, would really put Bibbs on the radar of NFL teams. He did not submit a request for feedback to the NFL Draft advisory board following his first year in Ames but thinks about his pro future from time to time. That's why he signed with Iowa State in 2013.
"It was basically how they were gonna use me," Bibbs said. "It's how you're gonna produce. I didn't really like the way Oklahoma said they were gonna use me. I was about to go to Texas Tech but things didn't work out that way. I didn't know too much about (Jace Amaro) at the time. Plus, my Mom and Dad liked it here, so I went with their decision. A lot of people in Chicago know about Iowa and Iowa State."
The Cyclones expect their quarterback battle to figure itself out by Aug. 16. Bibbs doesn't have a preference on that, citing the fact that both Rohach and Sam Richardson look to feed their big tight end and have "great arms and know the offense."
Asked about ISU's projected finish of ninth in the Big 12, Bibbs guffaws.
"You don't know the Big Three then, 2-9-11," he says. "Aaron Wimberly, Quenton Bundrage and you've got your boy 11. We call ourselves the Big Three. But we can't do anything without the offensive linemen."
Bibbs turns his head to the right, in the direction of his pony-tailed center.
"You've got Tom Farniok leading that whole group and they're gonna have great success there."
Our discussion returns to the guys scoring the touchdowns.
"Last year we had a lot of skill," Bibbs says, "but this year will be a little different."
Bibbs can see his name up in lights. And on the Mackey Award watch list. And on the all-conference team. And on the early 2015 NFL Draft ratings, one which lists him as the No. 4 tight end prospect. Now he's just got to stave off the migraines.