Ryan Kock has a lot of defined roles in his life – father, fiancé, son, brother, student, athlete, etc.
But up until early this fall Kock's role on the football team had become blurry – Where did he fit in on this Cyclone squad?
He had played some linebacker, a
little defensive line and a lot of fullback for
ISU running backs coach Tony Alford said the coaching staff sat Kock down and had a conversation with him prior to the season.
"[We told him] ‘we want to keep you at fullback and do some things, but you might play two plays one game and 15 plays the next, who knows? It just depends on the game plan and how the game unfolds,'" Alford said. "He was fine with that; he just wanted to know like most people, ‘what am I and what's my role here?' He's got a very defined role and he's taken to it."
Early in the season Kock's role within the team is no longer in question – whenever the Cyclones have the ball with short yardage and the end zone is in site, Kock will have the ball.
He's scored a touchdown five the
12 times he's carried the ball this season and accounts for almost half of
"He's not going to play much," said ISU head coach Dan McCarney. "When he plays it's usually some of the most important times and important plays of any football game, so I'm real happy with the job he's doing.
"They know when he's in the backfield we're not going to be running a toss sweep or option, but you've still got to stop him."
And so far opposing teams haven't caught on, but the ISU coaching staff knows it's only a matter of time.
"They'll catch up to it; we're still early in the season," Alford said. "It's not rocket science what we're doing. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a great season for [Kock] and the football team."
Kock, 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, isn't much of a talker; he just wants to let his play do the talking.
"I think [when I was on defense] it was just an experiment to see if I could handle it," Kock said. "I'm an offensive guy and I'll just take what role they give me."
Kock is a tough and strong back, Alford joked that his fullback won't beat you with his speed.
"He's not fast, he's not blessed with any type of speed," Alford said with a laugh. "He's a big strong kid and has a lot of determination. I think a lot of that is just him by the way he was raised; he's a tough guy."
Strong safety Nik Moser thinks Kock's farm upbringing has a lot to do with his success.
"He's a hard worker and he runs hard," Moser said. "He's a farm kid, he's hard to stop when he gets his mindset and he sees something. You'd think he's running to go bale hay or something."
Quarterback Bret Meyer said if he gave Kock the ball at mid-field he'd still be able to make plays with it; it might be something we see more of if Stevie Hicks or Greg Coleman needs a breather further into the season.
"He just doesn't want to be denied of the goal line," Meyer said. "You see how hard he runs; he's physical, he's big, he's strong. When he sees the goal line he doesn't want [that to be taken] away from him because he gets minimal snaps with us not using the fullback a whole lot other than short yardage."
Kock said he's glad that his teammates have assurance in him, because it's a two-way street.
"I got to be confident in my teammates around me and hopefully they've got the same confidence in me that I have in them," Kock said. "That's my role when I go into the game that's what I'm expected to do; so that's what I got to do."
Off the field Kock's role has always been well-defined. This summer Kock proposed to former ISU women's basketball player Katie Robinette; the two will be married on July 22nd. The couple has a son together, Caden Thomas who will turn two on October 23.
Alford said all of Kock's off the field responsibilities helped Kock grow as both a player and a man.
"He's kept his grades up, he's done well on the field, from all indications he's done well with Katie and his son Caden, so I commend him," Alford said. "What it did was make him grow up a lot faster than some of his peers. He was thrust into a situation that he had to grow up and be very adult-like quickly and he's done that and I'm really proud of him."
In a way it's also made it easier for the coach and player to relate to things; Alford has three kids of his own.
"He'll say something and I understand that," Alford said. "I know where you're at, but the thing is I'm 36 years old, he's 21; so I can't imagine doing what he's doing at 21 years old."
Alford noted that it's very apparent that Kock has a great support system ranging from the ISU football team to Katie to his parents.
"His mom and dad come to every game," Alford said. "That's the neat thing; he knows he's not standing on an island by himself.
"Katie's an athlete so she knows the racket and what the daily grind is. He hasn't batted an eye, he hasn't said, ‘I was up all night with my son, so I'm late to this or I'm too tired to do this.' That's part of the deal and we talked about that when he first had [Caden], yeah it can be tough but you've still got some other responsibilities."
With school, football practice and games, Kock values any time he can spend with Katie and Caden. At the end of the day there's nothing more he wants to do than to just get home to them.
Kock noted that Katie has done most of the wedding planning and Caden is in fact faster than his father.
"Yep already," Kock said. "I'm not too fast, but he's got some good genes."
Moser, linebacker Matt Robertson, along with former offensive lineman Luke Vander Sanden are all in the wedding party; Moser said he's really impressed with how Kock's handled everything on his plate.
"He's doing something a lot of people can't do," Moser said. "He's a football player, he's a student and at the same time he's raising a son and he's engaged to be married this summer."
With Kock feeling comfortable in all of his roles, the sky's the limit for the junior from Lohrville.
"He's pretty excited and we're excited for the way he's developed," Alford said. "He's not a finished product yet and there's a lot of work to be done, but he's getting better.
"We've been really pleased with him and what a great kid. I just love coaching him."