ISU’s “surprise” recruit favors substance, shuns hype


AMES — An orchestrated hat dance.  Live television. Skype events. 

National Signing Day has become one mammoth spectacle, built on shifting sands of stars-stamped hype and bravado.

 There’s plenty of bleating and chest-thumping that eventually dissolves into a faint mist of expectations either met or unmet in the ensuing four to five years, making the path from prized pick-up to flamed-out afterthought a well-trodden one. 

 So when a recruit like Bakersfield, California’s Sheldon Croney comes around, take notice and pay tribute. Iowa State’s lone “surprise” 2015 signee selected his school while keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the academic picture. The 5-11, 210-pound running back plans to be an engineering major and rushed for 85 touchdowns in three high school seasons. 

 A big number, but one that pales in comparison to another more important figure he cited during an interview with last week.

 “They graduated 100 percent of their seniors the past couple years,” Croney noted.

 That’s a blast of fresh mountain air right there. 


 Croney spent little time talking about himself, instead focusing on his family, his preferred academic track, the genuineness of the coaches, and a reunion with an award-winning Cyclone friend.

“When we got there, their coaches really gave off a family feel,” Croney said.

 Croney attended Ridgeview High — the school that also produced ISU’s Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, Kamari Cotton-Moya.

 Cotton-Moya, a safety who also played quarterback for the Wolf Pack, rushed for 2,258 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior in 2012.

 Croney, a three-star recruit who chose the the Cyclones over Boise State, Oregon State and Colorado State, rushed for 2,271 yards and 32 touchdowns his senior season. 

 Cotton-Moya helped guide Croney on his ISU visit.

 “That made my trip a lot more smooth,” said Croney, who played his sophomore and junior seasons at private Garces Memorial High School, setting a program record with 53 rushing touchdowns. “He introduced me to all of the guys. It felt good to have the one person who related to me.”

 Croney’s goals obviously aren’t confined to the classroom.

 He plans to make an immediate impact in Ames, whether in games or in scout team mode to start out, just as Cotton-Moya did. He’ll be part of a crowded, yet green backfield that includes redshirt freshman Michael Warren, sophomores Martinez Syria and Tyler Brown, and fellow 2015 recruit Joshua Thomas

 “Kamari was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year,” Croney said. “He opened my eyes that I can maybe do just as well as he did. That’s my goal – to come in as a freshman and help the team win. If not, I’ll work hard on the practice team or redshirt. Whatever I need to do to help the team win, I’ll do.”

 Again, refreshing.

 On a day that so often serves as a showcase for me-me-me self-aggrandizement, Croney quietly signed for all the right reasons.

 Here’s hoping his goals, unlike so many others, are fully met — from the halls of the Town Engineering Building to the verdant turf of Jack Trice Stadium.

 “It’s not always about football,” Croney said. “When I was down there I hung out with their families and wives and kids. It’s a family environment and that’s what I really wanted.”


Rob Gray


Rob, an Ames native, joined Cyclone Fanatic in August, 2014 after nearly a decade and a half of working at Iowa's two largest newspapers. He spent 10 years at the Des Moines Register and, after a brief stint in public relations, joined the Cedar Rapids Gazette as an Iowa State correspondent three years ago. Rob specializes in feature stories for CF.