This story appears in the Graduation 2019 special section.
Mikhari Sibblis was trying to prove to West Forsyth High School’s football coaching staff that he was worthy of being a starter, so the defensive end was particularly eager for spring practice his sophomore year.
But on the first drill of the first day, Sibblis hit his hand awkwardly against another player and felt pain. It was broken.
That experience was only a minor setback for Sibblis. He went on to earn that starting position on the football team that fall as a junior and have a standout athletic career at West in basketball, football and track and field.
But the process that spring and summer of getting back to full strength left an impression on Sibblis. He will attend Lehigh University, in Pennsylvania, in the fall on a full athletic scholarship to play football, and he plans to major in biology and go into sports medicine.
“I remember the whole rehabilitation and all that getting back right over the summer,” Sibblis said. “It’s something I can look back on now and appreciate, so I’d want to be able to help people out if that happened to them.”
Sports anchored Sibblis’ time in high school. He saw his first varsity action ever as a sophomore on the basketball team and was a key contributor thereafter, helping the Wolverines’ program reach the state playoffs a school-record three straight times.
One of Sibblis’ most cherished memories came in track, where he competed in the triple jump and contributed to the boys’ team’s region championship this school year, a feat Sibblis had come so close to accomplishing in both basketball and football.
“Finally getting [a region championship] meant a lot to me,” Sibblis said.
But Sibblis was a superior talent in football, where the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder became a disruptive force on defense starting his junior year. He helped West reach the state playoffs in each of his years on varsity, highlighted by a first-round victory this past fall, the program’s first in six years.
After his junior year, Sibblis began to attract the attention of college coaches. That increased after he participated in an all-star game along with other top players in the state.
Suddenly, Sibblis was juggling his class work, sports and college recruiting.
“It was difficult at first,” Sibblis said, but he managed to balance it all.
“My mom would always tell me, academics are first,” Sibblis said. “I always made sure I had my work done, made sure I would study, made sure I would make time for academics before sports.”
It worked. Sibblis maintained a 3.7 grade-point average and initially committed to play at Cornell University in the Ivy League. He switched to Lehigh after the school offered him a full scholarship in April.
Even after Sibblis had his dream to play college football come to fruition, he knew his work wasn’t done.“It felt relieving for probably a day, and then I thought I have to get back to the grind and working out,” Sibblis said. “Nothing’s guaranteed. I’ve had to work for what I’ve gotten so far, so I have to keep working if I want to succeed anymore.”