Gest finds perspective following ACL injury

Cole Gest went into Indiana’s 2018 opener with Florida International thinking he was about to get everything he wanted.
 
Cole Gest was the starting running back. Cole Gest, two years removed from a medical redshirt, was about to prove what Cole Gest could do with a football in his hand.
 
“The door was opening,” Gest said, “and then it just gets slammed in your face.”
 
Early in the second quarter of IU’s opening win at FIU, everything changed for Cole Gest. Because after a season-ending ACL injury, Cole Gest learned the world doesn’t revolve around Cole Gest.
 
“When you are living your life, you don’t realize how selfish you can really be,” Gest said. “I had some selfish motives within me, and God really showed me it’s really not about you, it’s about the team. And more than that, it’s about you serving the Lord.
 
“Everyone wants their name up in lights and stuff. And if that ever happens for me, awesome. But at the end of the day, it’s not what I’m here for anymore.”
 
Gest, the Hoosiers’ 5-foot-8, 193-pound sparkplug, believes he is the same football player as before the injury — shifty and explosive. But he also believes he’s a very different person — humbled and more mature.
 
The redshirt junior spent the weeks after his injury talking with family, studying scripture. They were words he’d read before. “But until it gets in your heart, it’s just words,” Gest said. “I feel like I’m finally understanding it.”
 
Following a recovery that was equal parts healing and reflection, Gest enters fall camp with sophomore Stevie Scott holding a strong claim to the starting running back spot. Two more young guns, sophomore Ronnie Walker and freshman Sampson James, may deserve their share of carries, as well.
 
In the past, watching others score made Gest nervous, worried his place in the RB hierarchy was slipping away. That, he realized, was foolishness.
 
Injuries have twice taught him the fleeting nature of his playing days. His faith has refocused his life, on and off the field. It’s simple things, like not arguing with his partner when she asks him to clean around the house. It’s celebrating with teammates when they cross the goal line.
 
“Me? If Stevie scores, or Sampson scores, if Ronnie scores, or Rod (Ahrod Lloyd) scores … if anyone scores, dude, I’m going to go up to him and celebrate with him,” Gest said.
 
The reintroduction of Gest into the IU backfield cuts multiple ways. While Gest has worked to embrace his teammates, someone like Scott, who set IU freshman records for carries, yards, and touchdowns in 2018, has to welcome the competition Gest and others will provide.
 
And that’s exactly what he’s done.
 
“I think we’re about to be RB U,” Scott said.
 
Recent history has placed a multitude of prolific rushers at IU, including eventual pros in Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard. Scott’s 1,137 yards and 10 scores last season put him on a path toward following in their footsteps.
 
But with a 6-2, 231-pound bruiser like Scott in the backfield, and a former Ohio State commit in James about to make his debut, the more compactly built Gest hasn’t received as much outside attention. People seem to forget he rushed for 428 yards on 93 carries (4.6 ypc) as a redshirt freshman in 2017.
 
Inside the Hoosiers’ locker room, they know better.
 
“Cole might be the most explosive on the team,” junior receiver Whop Philyor said. “He in that hole, he’s gone. He’s like a bat out of hell. Actually a bat out of hell. He don’t like that terminology, but he’s a bat out of hell.”
 
Gest should give offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer another versatile weapon out of the backfield, both as a runner and a receiver. He could also play a role in the return game for the Hoosiers.
 
At the same time, Gest may be an even bigger asset as a leader and competitor, pushing an IU backfield loaded with freshmen and sophomores.
 
“I’m not slowing down for nobody,” Gest said. “You are either going to come along with me, or I’m going to have to dust you. And I’m not saying that specifically at Stevie, that’s just my mindset.
 
“I understand you can’t go it alone, either. That comes with the selfishness. In the past, it was all about me being the starter and I’m going to ball out. But I understand now, you can’t go it alone. If you do, you are just going to die out.”
 
Gest’s fellow backs seem to understand that, which is why he believes their position group is one of the closest in lU’s locker room.
 
“Everyone is a brother in there,” Gest said. “We can joke around with each other, we can encourage each other. Even in player practices in the summer, no one gave off the vibe that ‘I have to get mine, screw you’ type deal.”
 
The best teams are player-led, Gest went on to say. That is how he believes this Hoosier team, as a whole, will operate.
 
As an individual, Cole Gest isn’t so worried about Cole Gest anymore.
 
“Dude, you have to put other people’s interests before you sometimes. It’s not always about Cole Gest,” he said. “That was the biggest thing for me. I’m just going to take that into fall camp, I’m going to be a leader this year.
 
“And don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to take my foot off the gas. I’m going to go full throttle.”

24 comments

  1. I really believe Gest has the makings to be the most dangerous producer on the offense because he is so uniquely an genuinely versatile. But the thing I’m going to be watching for most is his blocking effectively on run or pass plays. That will show true maturity and leadership. Because they’re 2 different types of backs I think CG and Scott share feature RB duties. Something opposing D will find hard to deal with if the OL is at least average.

    1. I’m with you here. Gest should be a real nice weapon this season. And I have a good feeling about the starting OL. Depth might be questionable but I’m pretty confident in the starters being atleast in the middle of the pack of the B1G. The rushing attack should be strong no matter who is at QB.

  2. Gest works, barring injury (even injury that may not end season but slow a player down).
    IU becoming running back U would be a point that may neutralize qb competition which might favor PR a bit. As a starter done with PR many games ago. Running game would be helped with JT and or MP. PR = String # 3 and available when called upon as needed.

  3. I believe the OL will be solid, not overwhelming (hope I’m wrong) but adequate. IU will need that to open holes for the run game. But more importantly OL needs good pass protection to open a consistent passing game so that defenses don’t consistently put 6-8 players in the box. I believe that OC DeBoer will use our TEs and RBs more in the passing game which should open up the running game. CG will be a good alternative & change of pace runner especially after Scott breaks off a long run or needs a breather. I really think that a more aggressive OC is what IU has been lacking. DeBoer’s resume indicates he will be that. Go Hoosiers!!

  4. As far as the OL stands I’m anxious to see how much of a foothold Britt Berry can earn in the 6th man rotation. He was a decently rated DL nationally from Carmel at the time he committed. He was switched to OL soon after getting to IU. Coaches saw something and it wasn’t that he’d only take up lots of space on the bench. Might really get established this season.

  5. I forgot about Britt Berry.

    I, too, am anxious to see his development and I am also interested to see if OL freshmen Matt Bedford & Mike Katic can help out this season & gain experience.

  6. I want to see Gest stay healthy and see how coach DeBoer uses his talent. Gest is a dynamic player that is fast and can destroy players that try to tackle him. He is a back that fits in well with coach deBoer’s offense and I expect to see Gest used in many positions to stress the defense.

    I expect IU’s OL to have a good season and that Beery will play often. He has really benefited from the S&C program so if he can use his size and strength it would be hard to keep him off the field.

    1. I haven’t heard Winters name yet in the practice reports. I did see that Pechac got moved to DB though.

        1. Those were my thoughts as well. Some guys in the twitterverse seem to think he’s going to come in and start this season because he scored so many TDs in HS.

    2. 123,
      I’m not so sure if it is as disappointing as it may be realistic. Unless IUFB sees as drastic improvement in the QB play, a 4-8 season is a distinct possibility. 247 sports may be taking into consideration the play at the QB position the last two years, and assuming it will not change for 2019. I cannot blame them, especially if they were placing any emphasis on certain comments which have been made.

    3. Why do people get so upset with some sports writer predicting a losing season? It’s a prediction, not a guaranty.

      IU has to prove itself, as does every team at the start of the season. If IU finishes with the predicted results then you could argue he saw something that all of us ignored as fans. If IU goes 8-4 then we can accuse the writer of ignoring the improvement that we believe this team has made.

      Let’s play the game and see what the actual results will be.

  7. A prediction based on tradition. I get it. That’s why games are played on the field. There is always a big surprise or two and a few slight or pleasant surprises. The question is how much improvement individually and with team as a whole or will it be same as usual?

  8. The growth, development and maturity of offensive personnel has a lot to say about 2019 improvement but replacing the worn out, vanilla DeBord with the younger, aggressive KB will yield strong performances and positive results from the offense.

  9. The optimism about the improvements DeBoer brings to IU’s offense is reflected in his compensation package. Expectations of him are very high, and rightfully so.

    As for predicting how IU will finish the 2019 season, no one with any objectivity and knowledge of Big Ten Football would predict IU to win more than five games this season. Almost every person commenting on this site is a devoted IU fan and therefore incapable of being objective. But in trying to be objective, while we’re all reasonably confident IU will put a better product on the field this season, would anyone bet a large sum of money that IU will defeat Michigan, MSU, PSU, OSU, or Nebraska this season? Because as I see it, IU has to beat one of those teams if they’re going to win six games.

    Here’s how I see it. IU wins the three non-conference games and beats Rutgers. That’s the four wins we can reasonably count on. To win five, we have to beat either Northwestern, Purdue or Maryland, and since NW comes to Bloomington, that’s probably our best chance to secure a fifth win. In order to win a sixth game, which of the Big Boys is IU going to beat? My guess is either Michigan at home or Penn State. We’ve played Michigan real tough over the last few years, especially in Bloomington, and it’s the game before Michigan plays OSU. And with a new QB at Penn State and how close last year’s game was (until Penix got hurt), IU could upset PSU on the road.

    To me, here’s a more likely scenario for IU’s 2019 season. IU produces an huge upset and TA gets his first signature win. But IU loses a game everyone believes it should win and produces another five-win season. Improvement, but still disappointing.

    Regardless of who the quarterback is, I think IU is still a year away from producing a winning season.

  10. For IU to win more than 4 games there has to be an upgrade in all areas; will it happen? We can reasonably expect improvements in offense and defense as enough returning players will be back. Also seeing the physical changes from the S&C program indicates the players are different this year. The changes in coaching responsibility should lead to better decision making and organization helping to eliminate game decision mistakes. Looking at the talent on the team if all these changes work out then IU could beat teams they just played close to in the past. Their are reason to think IU may have made up a lot of the difference between IU and the B1G powers – OSU new coach & DC, a talented QB that couldn’t beat out the competition and it is doubtful he can match Haskins season, PSU lost their 4 year starting QB while last year they lost 4 games, UM is putting in a new offense with players from the old system their defense is replacing much of last year’s defense, and finally MSU with their terrible offense from last year – will it be better with their QB healthier this year. None of this may lead to IU victories but it does open the door for a couple of upsets.

  11. OSU: Ain’t going to happen. They’re just loaded with talent. Any coach could win with that roster.
    MSU: playing them at their place will be very difficult, and they’ll be better in 2019.
    PSU: If the game was in Bloomington, I’d pencil that one in for IU, bit its at PSU, so just a maybe.
    Michigan: Best chance of all. It’s in Bloomington and we play MI tough.

    Too bad either Illinois or Minn is not on the schedule this year instead of Nebraska.

  12. Though IU will be underdogs in each game; Ohio State is as winnable as MSU, Penn State, and Michigan. It depends on several variables.

  13. Jay Lehman just commented on today’s Big Show he thinks IU is poised to beat one of the
    big 4 in the B1G East this year. Maybe we are delusional for thinking IU can turn the corner this year.

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