Q&A With Cole Croston

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Cole Croston is a fifth-year senior offensive lineman from Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. The former walk-on has started 12 consecutive games at right tackle and left tackle. His father, Dave, lettered for the Hawkeye football team from 1984-86.
Do you look at things differently now that you have 12 consecutive starts under your belt?
“Coming into last year I was fighting for a spot and this year I am still fighting for a spot because everything is still up in the air. I’m rolling with the 1s (first team) right now and it’s great getting that experience against the No. 1s on defense. I like being able to mentor and help some of the younger tackles like Brett Waechter and help him see things like I see them. It took a while to see things as fast as I do now.”
What goes through your mind as you prepare for a final season?
“It has been a long journey but you look back on it and it happened faster than I thought it would. Coming into my fifth year it is all or nothing and it’s exciting to be in the position I am now and being able to play for a Big Ten offensive line.”
Did you ever think you would be in this position after joining the program as a walk-on in 2013?
“I was told many times I could be in this position, but being 225 (pounds) and getting pushed around out there as a freshman was tough; at times I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. With the help of both coach Ferentz’s (head coach Kirk and offensive line coach Brian) and (strength and conditioning) coach (Chris) Doyle, they made me into the man I am today.”
What were your opportunities coming out of high school?
“I didn’t really have any scholarship opportunities football-wise. Augustana (South Dakota) might have had a little something and Morningside looked at me for a second. I had a little opportunity with Drake, but a lot of it was basketball: Northwestern (Iowa) wanted me to play basketball there and Morningside looked at me a little bit for basketball, too. No Division I. For me, I was either going to come to Iowa to play football or come to Iowa and be a student. It ended up working out where I could play football.”
What’s the first highlight that comes to mind?
“Being along with the team that went 12-0 (in the regular season in 2015) and a record season for the Hawkeyes last year. Going to the Rose Bowl, which my dad was in 25 years ago. It was an amazing experience.”
How often are you reminded of your dad’s Hawkeye career?
“Not a whole lot. I see his name a few times in the facility, which is very cool. We don’t talk about it a lot. When I’m back home we say a few things here or there, sometimes I talk to him after games about stuff he saw and stuff I saw. He is a humble guy and doesn’t talk about himself a lot.”
How much did you learn last season?
“It is an amazing experience to be able to play against guys who are top-notch recruits and knowing coach Brian Ferentz has gotten us ready to play against these guys and we can go out there and play against those guys is cool.”
What is at the top of your To-Do list for this season?
“From a team standpoint we want to do what we did last year by taking it one step at a time. We didn’t look at wanting to go 12-0, we looked at it as we wanted to win every game on the schedule and go 1-0 every week. That is what we are going to do this year. Personally, I want to be a better player than I was last year. I want to be able to protect (quarterback) C.J. (Beathard) better than in the past. He got beat up a few times and we would like to keep him clean.”
Is there a defensive lineman you prefer not to face during practice?
“I always go up against Parker Hesse out at defensive end. He is a great player and a strong young kid. Those guys inside: Jaleel (Johnson) is a big body and when he wants to turn it on he can be a man. That is the same thing with Nate Bazata. Those guys inside are stout bodies and when I have to block those guys you have to bring your game.”
Give an example of the most bizarre thing to happen in one of the many piles during an actual game?
“You want to be on the side where you’re not taking blows down there. Normally I’m not at the bottom of them. If you are, you want to be the guy holding on to the running back or taking care of the ball.”
You have gained a few pounds since coming here. Is that hard to do?
“I came in about 230, but dropped a few pounds during camp. I have gained about 80 pounds to 310. Coach Doyle is the secret. He implements a great meal plan and if you follow it you will get to the point you need to be. Coach Doyle does a great job of that.”
What is the best part of being in Brian Ferentz’s position group?
“He is only a few years older than us, so he was in our shoes a few years ago. He knows how we think and he can connect with us on a level that other coaches can’t and it’s cool to have him in there and teaching us the things he went through.”
Which young lineman should Hawkeye fans keep an eye on?
“Nobody is as skinny as I was. There is a big boy, Alaric Jackson, he is a monster out there. He is like 6-6, 330. Great body. He has a way to go with technique, like everyone does as a freshman. Spencer Williams, there are a bunch of young guys out there who will be able to go a long way.”