AMES — Zeb Noland laid on the turf in frustration.
A left ACL tear ended Noland’s first season with the Iowa State football team only a few days into fall camp. He needed a few minutes to calm down. Once he did, he quickly shifted his mind-set about what that first season would be like.
The focus went to recovery and how to maximize his teammates’ success.
“My thing was let me be the best teammate I can possibly be and then learn as much as I possibly can learn behind the scenes,” Noland said. “Watch extra film, be there for everybody on the team and just be the best me I can be.
“(I had to) be selfless because the season was about everybody else. I got hurt and it was what it was. I just didn’t let it affect me.”
Noland, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound redshirt freshman, was on the short list to be the backup quarterback last year along with junior Jacob Park. Now that senior Joel Lanning has moved primarily to linebacker and Park has taken over starting duties, Noland is right back in the mix this season.
Through the first couple weeks of spring practices, Noland has been limited to seven-on-seven work as his recovery continues. The work in practice has been about manufacturing opportunities for the Watkinsville, Ga., native to reps outside of live scrimmaging.
“He, again, is a young player who missed an entire season’s worth of work,” said quarterbacks coach Jim Hofher. “It’s very promising, don’t get me wrong. He’s got talent, he’s just like anybody else who has had surgery. We can go as fast as his work in the training room and the trainer’s recommendations allow him to go.”
Noland still has a slight limp when he tries to make a big cut or sudden movement. It’s gotten better with time. He had surgery shortly after the injury, wore a brace and has put in work in the therapy pool. As the spring progresses and the summer and fall near, Noland said he needs to just get back to his old self.
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“My goal is just to be 100 percent and be the Zeb that I was before I got hurt,” Noland said. “And do more than just run, jump and cut and have no effects in my body whatsoever.”
Talent has never been an issue with Noland. He was a consensus three-star recruit when he enrolled early at Iowa State last winter, and was a top-50 quarterback according to ESPN and Scout.
As he recovered last season, he would be on the headsets on game days and hear the chatter between his teammates and coaches. Even though he couldn’t perform, he absorbed all he could from the mental side, picking up things he probably couldn’t if he was in the heat of the game.
“I got to hear all that,” Noland said. “So many ups and downs and roller coasters throughout the year that you got to see the lowest of the lows and the highest of highs. That made me a better person, it made me a better teammate, getting to see how the players responded to the coaches through it all.”
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