Nov 9, 2019; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Kennedy Brooks (26) runs as Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Greg Eisworth (12) defends during the first quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — A jolt of adrenaline momentarily masks the pain.
That’s both good and bad — but mostly good — for Iowa State standout safety Greg Eisworth, who’s been playing with a shoulder injury most of this season.
“I think it’s pretty cool and then you kind of regret it the next day,” said Eisworth, who has missed only one game, but played limited snaps because of the injury sustained while making a hit in the Louisiana-Monroe win. “Sunday, it kind of wears off and you’re like, ‘Oh, man.’ But that’s the thing about adrenaline — it keeps me out there on the field and able to do what I want to do, so that’s awesome.”
So it’s better than good, maybe.
Pain management has been an unwanted, but overarching theme for Eisworth this season and that won’t change when the Cyclones (6-4, 4-3 Big 12) welcome Kansas (3-7, 1-6) for Saturday’s 11 a.m. matchup at Jack Trice Stadium.
The junior will suit up, wince, then go to work.
Eisworth, the Big 12’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore, boasts 49 tackles and a team-best nine pass breakups despite missing a full game and parts of others as the injury gets reaggravated from time to time.
“Greg’s got a warrior’s spirit,” said ISU head coach Matt Campbell, whose team is a 24.5-point favorite against the Jayhawks. “He’s a young man that how he plays the game is, there’s really one speed and that’s 100 percent. It’s a tribute to him. Some people have the ability to endure and not be maybe 100 percent health and still be able to play at a really high rate and Greg’s one of those guys. I think it just tells you how special that guy really is to be able to endure some of the things, physically, that he’s endured and still be out on the field and be able to help our team be successful.”
Eisworth has played both the star position and free safety this season. He said rotating in graduate transfer Justin Bickham has helped him feel better about playing fewer snaps, at times, because of his undulating pain levels.
“It’s not about me and how much I’m playing or how well I’m doing,” Eisworth said. “I just want this team to succeed so being able to see Justin play and rotate in with him — he keeps me fresh, I keep him fresh. That’s awesome.”
Eisworth said he wears a “sully” shoulder brace to help keep his shoulder “more intact.”
He also said how much pain he’ll feel after delivering or absorbing a hit is determined by angles more than the force of impact. He never knows for sure how much pain he’ll feel each time his dives in for a tackle, or takes on a block.
“It’s been kind of tough,” Eisworth said. “Just up and down; just really wanting to be out there with my teammates, my brothers. Give this team everything I have. Sometimes I can’t play through the pain. Sometimes I can. That part’s been tough, but I’m still here, still able to play.”
And more than willing.
Eisworth said he was able to play throughout Saturday’s rousing 23-21 win over Texas — and reveled in helping the Cyclones get one final stop to set up the game-winning field goal from Connor Assalley.
Adrenaline kicked in again. So did elation.
“Coach (Jon) Heacock always says, ‘We’ll be a really good defense when the team needs us the most and we step up and produce,’ and I felt like we did,” Eisworth said of the three and out that preceded ISU’s final drive. “We gave the offense another chance and they executed. And Assalley making a game-winner, man, just happy for him. It’s good to be able to finally put it all together. We’ve been in some close losses so to come out with a win and just see everybody happy and excited, it kind of adds more spirit to you. So that was awesome.”
Eisworth uses that word a lot and it’s easy to understand why. He loves playing football — even if its necessary companion is considerable chronic pain, for now, at least.
“It’s huge for our team,” Campbell said. “Number one, our kids obviously believe in him. He was voted captain here and I think that part tells you enough, to be a junior and being voted captain in this program, I think, says a lot about who you are. Number two, I think Greg, just his playing experience and his ability to communicate make him a really dynamic football player. So his ability to get people lined up and kind of get the ship righted when it needs to be righted is really special. He brings more than just this physical specimen at safety. He’s also a guy that’s got this great instinct and he’s also a guy that’s almost like a coach on the field for us.”
KU ON THE RISE?
Campbell said Kansas has always had some standout players. Now, in year one under head coach Les Miles, he’s seeing the Jayhawks adopt a culture that makes them dangerous on a weekly basis — even though the record (3-7, 1-6) says otherwise.
“I think I’ve seen that belief,” Campbell said. “Their kids play with a really high spirit. Watch offense, defense and special teams — there’s not an area where they’re not playing hard. A lot of credit to coach Miles because he’s got those guys playing really good football.”
When senior offensive tackle Julian Good-Jones takes the field Saturday against Kansas, he’ll tie an Iowa State record.
The burly, but athletic 6-5, 308-pounder from Cedar Rapids has started 47 consecutive games — and number 48 would tie him for the most starts all-time at ISU.
The only game he hasn’t started in as a Cyclone? The first one of his freshman season.
“The first thing you have to have is talent and Julian is certainly highly talented,” Campbell said. “The other thing you have to have is you have to be a little bit lucky because of the physicality of the offensive line position. To be able to stay healthy through his career is certainly a credit to him and the work he’s put into that. He’s done a great job of taking care of his body. Physically, you’re seeing the best he’s ever looked in his career, and I’m really proud of him for that. Julian is a special football player and he’s a guy that has certainly grown immensely over the last three to four years in this football program and he has a chance to leave here — right now he has his best academics that he’s ever had. He’s a really intelligent young man and he’s playing his best football that he’s ever played here with great consistency.”