SCHS grad gets to experience bowl game

Gueths gets college reps while redshirting

Greg Bates Leader Correspondent

Leader File Photo Northern Illinois University offensive lineman Zeke Gueths, a Shawano Community High School graduate who played left tackle for the Hawks for three years, will get to experience a bowl game as the Huskies play Duke on Dec. 26 in the Quick Lane Bowl.

Zeke Gueths got the call he’d been waiting for all season. He was going to get his first reps in a college football game.

As the redshirt freshman at Northern Illinois University ran out with his offensive teammates at Bowling Green’s Doyt L. Perry Stadium that Saturday afternoon in October, the moment hit Gueths.

“It was a crazy experience, just running out onto the field and with that many people in the stands,” he said. “It’s a totally different atmosphere than the high school football games or even the bigger basketball games I’ve played in.”

Gueths lined up at right guard for the Huskies in their final series of the game against Bowling Green. Aptly enough, Northern Illinois marched down the field and tallied a touchdown en route to a 48-17 stomping.

“I was pretty nervous,” Gueths said. “I was out there focusing just not to jump the snap. I didn’t want to get a penalty my first play out there. It was really exciting.”

Easy, big fella. Everything went well.

Gueths, who graduated from Shawano Community High School in 2016, also got into the tail end of Northern Illinois’ 63-17 drubbing of Ball State three weeks later. That has been the extent of Gueths’ playing time in his first season being eligible to get onto the field.

Northern Illinois’ season isn’t quite over. After a one-year hiatus, the Huskies qualified for a bowl game. Northern Illinois will take on Duke in the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26.

“All the guys are excited because Duke being an ACC team, we lost to Boston College at the beginning of the year. It’s our chance to get back at an ACC team – there’s a whole new energy there,” Gueths said. “With the extra time, right now school’s done, so we get to just focus on football. Our coaches say we almost get to feel like a pro football player here for a couple weeks because with no school it’s football all day.”

Getting to a bowl game is part of the reason why Gueths accepted a full-ride scholarship to Northern Illinois. He wanted to be a part of its historical football program.

Gueths redshirted his freshman season and moved from left tackle – the position he played at Shawano – to right guard this year.

“It’s been different getting used to doing things on the right side instead of the left side, that was a little bit of a change,” Gueths said. “But being on scout team and going against our No. 1 defense, that really helps me work on my technique and to get better that way.”

Gueths, who is the team’s third-team right guard, understands his role on the scout team is vitally important. It’s something he takes pride in every week preparing Northern Illinois’ defense for their next opponent. The only thing on Gueths’ mind right now is to get the first-team defense ready to face Duke.

Since coming to Northern Illinois, Gueths has transformed into a football player. He only started playing the sport as a sophomore at Shawano, so he’s still raw. In his redshirt season, he added 25 to 30 pounds, bulking up to his current weight of 305 pounds. Add that to his 6-foot-5 frame and he looks the part of a Division 1 lineman.

Even though his weight is up, his body composition is better with his body fat percentage dropping.

“We always joke about it in the O-linemen room that it’s a whole different world once you hit 300 (pounds),” Gueths said. “At 290, 295 you’re good, but all of a sudden at 300 you start sweating walking upstairs.”

Gueths continues to learn every day as a player. The biggest area he needs to work on his aforementioned technique. He knows hard work will be key for him after the bowl game until spring practices starts up a few months later.

“I’ve just got to hit the weight room hard, try and get my weight up that way and focus on my diet,” Gueths said. “Watch film, focus on technique. There are so many little things, attention to details, that I have to fix and focus on.”

Getting a taste of playing in two games this season motivates Gueths every day on the field.

“It gave me like a new hunger to keep competing because, as a redshirt or as a scout guy, sometimes you feel like what you’re doing is not paying off,” Gueths said.

Gueths is one of 16 offensive linemen on the Northern Illinois roster this season. Remarkably, none of the guys are seniors. So, competition will get even more fierce next season with every player having another year under their belt.

“I’ve got to just keep doing what I can to earn my spot,” Gueths said.