Iowa State Cyclones

Sheldon Croney has grown into a leader for Iowa State running backs

Senior fills David Montgomery's leadership role

Iowa State Cyclones running back Sheldon Croney Jr. pulls away from Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Nick Niemann at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (The Gazette)
Iowa State Cyclones running back Sheldon Croney Jr. pulls away from Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Nick Niemann at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (The Gazette)

AMES — In May 2015, a high school running back named Sheldon Croney accidentally shot himself in the left hand when he and a couple of friends found a handgun that belonged to one of the friends’ fathers.

According to a release from the Bakersfield Police at the time, Croney manipulated the handgun, causing it to fire and strike him in the hand.

Croney, a Bakersfield, Calif., native, had already committed to Iowa State, but after the self-inflicted gunshot wound, he knew he’d have to sit out his first year to heal.

Now, as a redshirt senior who saw a significant number of snaps in back-to-back seasons in relief of David Montgomery, Croney has emerged as the leader of the Iowa State running backs room.

“It is crazy being the leader,” Croney said. “I didn’t think I was going to be here — a lot of people probably didn’t think I was going to be here. It’s a blessing to be here. The best part is just being able to be around all the guys — that’s the best part.”

Being around the guys is also the part he missed the most while he sat out.

“I didn’t even really miss playing and that’s what I thought I’d miss, but I missed practices and workouts with the boys,” Croney said. “I missed going through those things that really sucked, but you knew you were going through them together and that’s what makes it so much better.

“That was really the hardest part for me. When I got to do that again, I got back to really having fun again.”

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That’s why he takes so much pride in making sure he keeps the running backs room as close knit as possible.

“We spend a lot of time together,” Croney said. “We watch film together, hang out together, eat together. We get to know each other outside of football so everything on the field comes together when you hang out so much.”

Croney’s job as the leader is to maintain the culture that Montgomery laid before him.

“Sheldon’s done a really good job with all of the guys,” Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. “That’s a really tight room and it’s been a really tight room for a long time. The culture that’s been set here — David was a big part of setting that culture — those guys have done a great job in that room.”

Manning returned as the offensive coordinator after a one-year stint as the Indianapolis Colts’ tight ends coach. Manning also returns as the running-game coordinator.

“He’s a high energy guy like us,” Croney said. “We kind of have a crazy room because we all have such big personalities. Coach Manning definitely fits right in.”

Croney is tasked with showing true freshman Breece Hall how things work. Hall is an early enrollee at Iowa State. He did it so he could go through spring practices before fall camp arrives.

The thing that’s impressed Croney the most about Hall is his size. Croney is 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds. Hall is already 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds.

“He’s only 17 and he’s huge,” Croney said. “He’s way bigger than I was when I came in. He has great size and great feet, which complement each other well.”

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It’s too early to tell what Hall can really do on the football field and whether or not he’ll see time in the fall. But he’s impressed his teammates and coaches through three days of practice.

“I think what you see from Breece is that he’s a smooth runner,” Manning said. “It’s very natural to him. Right now, we’re focused on learning the offense and where to line up. He’s been really fun to be around. He’s a very intelligent kid and he’s very serious about this game and this team.”

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