According to First-year wide receiver Elliot Herdina, the Gustavus Gusties’ 27-19 football win against Coe College on Sep. 13 can be attributed to the Gusties’ great defensive performance-but he’s just being modest. If you asked any of the people in the audience at that game, they’d probably give most of the credit to Herdina. In his first collegiate game, he scored two of Gustavus’ three touchdowns, rushing for 74 yards and catching three passes for 40 yards. Those 74 rushing yards include a 68-yard touchdown run in the second half, which sealed the deal for Gustavus’ first win this season.
“It was tied 13-13 at halftime, so we knew the rest of the game was going to be a shootout,” said Herdina, “but after the first half the coaches had figured out [Coe’s] defensive scheme, which really helped.”
It also helped that Gustavus’ defense didn’t give up a single offensive touchdown in the game and held tight in several critical goal line situations, holding Coe to four field goals and a blocked punt return for a touchdown. “We just knew at halftime that whoever had the most heart, whoever wanted it more, was going to win,” said Herdina. “We wanted it more.”
Much of the offensive credit should go to Herdina, whose two second-half touchdowns were made even sweeter because they were his first two as a college student. In spite of his star performance in that game, he complemented his team’s defense, coaching and just about everyone on the team besides himself for a job well done. Herdina is certainly a great addition to Gustavus football, and his respect for his teammates is a credit to both him and his team.
“Everybody on the team is really supportive,” said Herdina. “We don’t usually do the whole ‘touchdown celebration’ thing, but after I scored my first touchdown the whole team came on the field to congratulate me.”
Although Gustavus has never really been renowned for its football team, Herdina and his teammates are optimistic about their prospects. “Over the past few years, the Gustavus team has really been considered average, but now we’re peaking. Everybody on the team has really been clicking.”
Herdina also attributes the team’s win on Saturday to this new positive thinking. “Our coach just keeps saying, ‘take everything one chain link at a time.’ … If we think we’re going to win, we will.”
Although Herdina’s daily practices are time-consuming, he still finds time every Monday to help out with St. Peter’s flag football team. The team is composed mostly of fifth-graders, and many of Gustavus’ football players volunteer to spend time with the kids and be role models for them.
Has Elliot Herdina always been a talented football player? The short answer is yes. “When I was about ten, my dad would play football with us in our yard. He would be quarterback and my brother and I would play one-on-one. We did that pretty much every day.”
Herdina’s passion for football continued when he started at Blooming Prairie High School, where he played varsity for all four years. It was during that time that he broke Minnesota’s high school record for all-time most receiving yards, previously held by Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. He was also one of only two Minnesota high school wide receivers to be on the Associated Press All-State First Team, a team that Herdina describes as “sort of like an all-star team.” He also played in the Minnesota High School Varsity All-Star game.
So what is Elliot Herdina doing at Gustavus, when he could be a starting wide receiver for Notre Dame or some other school that has more of an emphasis on varsity football? “Football was definitely a factor, but in the long run it was the academics,” says Herdina. “Gustavus has really lived up to the stuff that people say about it. It’s all that and more.”
“I’ll probably stay in my hometown after graduating,” said Herdina, when asked about his plans for a career. “I’m really close with my family.
“I’m not sure what I want my major to be yet, but I’m taking some psychology classes; I might go into that. I’m also looking into pediatric nursing.”
Gustavus’ football team may sometimes be the object of criticism, but hopefully, with people like Elliot Herdina on the team, enthusiasm will continue to grow for the Golden Gusties. So spread the word, and if you show up at a game you’ll at least get an opportunity to use that “Gustie Battle Cry” you’ve probably forgotten by now.
Photo By: Sarah Cartwright