AMES — Next man up is a cliché in football. It’s a phrase coaches use to try and instill belief in their fans and players.
Iowa State’s football team actually buys into that, and another example came in its 23-13 win against Baylor on Saturday.
The Cyclones are on their fourth quarterback of the season and there has been little to no dropoff among the four.
On Saturday, star running back David Montgomery was tackled awkwardly, and he didn’t put any weight on his leg as he came off the field. Coach Matt Campbell said the x-rays came back negative and Montgomery has no breaks, tears or strains.
And if Campbell had to guess, Montgomery will be back for Iowa State’s season finale against Kansas State.
But while Montgomery was out, redshirt sophomore Sheldon Croney Jr. filled his spot, and filled it well.
“You never like to see one of your top guys go down, but it’s football and that’s what happens and the next guy comes up and Sheldon came in and did a great job of running the football,” Campbell said in the post-game press conference.
“We’re kind of the football team that’s resembled that all year. That’s kind of been our niche. The next guy has stood up and played really good football for us.”
Montgomery was reeling off 10-yard runs left and right until his injury. Croney did the same. He averaged 11.3 yards per carry and had a long of 25 yards.
Campbell credited the success not to what Croney has done recently, but he went all the way back to spring practice when Croney started to emerge. Campbell said he carried that momentum into fall camp, and now he’s solidified himself as Montgomery’s back-up and the next man in.
“Sheldon’s one of those guys that it’s not about Sheldon, I think he’s really pressed to get better every day – and that’s really hard to do because at running back there is one ball,” Campbell said.
“David’s kind of pushed himself to the front of the pack with his ability to block, catch and run. What’s been fun for Sheldon is he’s kind of mirrored that and he’s allowed himself to have a niche and a role on this football team.”
At this time last season, Campbell wouldn’t have had the same response about Croney. But he credited Croney’s parents as key figures in Croney staying the course and trusting Campbell’s famous “process.”
“I’m really proud of him. He’s one of those guys that’s worked really hard because it hasn’t always been easy for Sheldon,” Campbell said. “I was all over his case a year ago, to be honest with you. It’s been really fun to watch him and I’m really proud of him.”