SMSU FOOTBALL: Gimbel returning for one final season for Mustangs after medical redshirt

Independent file photo SMSU’s Blake Gimbel fires a pass during a Sept. 2016 game against the University of Mary. The senior will return next season after being granted a medical redshirt.

MARSHALL – The 2017 season for the Southwest Minnesota State University football team came to an end on Saturday, with the Mustangs dropping their season finale against Concordia-St. Paul, 37-20. The loss was the eighth straight for the Mustangs, putting SMSU’s season record at 2-9 overall. It was the worst finish for the Mustangs since they finished 2-9 in 2007.

It was a season derailed by injuries for the Mustangs. No injury was bigger than the one Blake Gimbel suffered in the team’s second game of the season. Gimbel attempted to play through the injury in the following two weeks, but decided to shut it down. With Gimbel sidelined for good, the Mustangs went 0-7.

The SMSU quarterback suffered a torn labrum and bicep tendon, a injury that typically takes roughly 8-12 weeks to heal.

“I don’t know the exact wordage, but my bicep tendon attachment to the labrum was not good,” Gimbel said. “The bicep tendon and the torn labrum were the two injuries if you would describe it.”

In a season filled with bad news and many downs the Mustangs recently got good news when Gimbel was awarded another year of eligibility when he was granted a medical redshirt.

“I didn’t know I was going to medical redshirt right away,” Gimbel said. “We went through the first couple of games against Minot and Bemidji and played a few series in each not knowing how the arm was going to feel. It got to the point where it wasn’t going to get any better at all. Instead of milking it out the rest of the year it got to the time where we had to make the decision to do the medical redshirt or try to rehab it and maybe play a full game at the end of the year.”

SMSU head coach Cory Sauter said that he’s happy that Gimbel will be able to close out his Mustang career on a positive note in 2018.

“Blake’s been here for a long time already,” Sauter said. “The fact that we can get him for one more season is great. I know he was really happy to hear that, as well as his teammates. He really only played two football games this season. I know he’s really fired up. It was a very unfortunate injury this year and we are glad he’ll be able to end his career how it should.”

Gimbel entered the 2017 season looking to close out his Mustang career on a high note. Instead he missed seven full games and only played in one full game. The Mustangs signal caller said it was a trying time for him having to sit and watch on the sideline not knowing what was next.

“It’s been very tough,” Gimbel said. “I’m not going to lie. When the injury happened and the couple weeks after that it was the toughest for me, just mentally. The stress of everything about the situation. Not knowing if it’s going to get better, or if you are going to get to play again. There was just a lot of things that weigh you down. I had that ease of mind once I found out that the medical redshirt was an option. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the hit I took at Moorhead. There are so many things that go through your head. Could it have been prevented? Why didn’t I do this? Why didn’t I do that?”

It was the first time in Gimbel’s playing career that he missed more than one game. During his school career he injured his ankle and missed one game.

“Nobody ever wants to sit out,” Gimbel said. “To miss a whole season you can pretty much cross out the entire 2017 season for me as a whole. I played two games, but all the hard work in the summer and everything leading up. You train for ninth months and play for three months. If the three months are taken away you are doing a lot of stuff to have it all taken away from you. It was tough but, that’s the way things go sometimes.”

Although this season was difficult for Gimbel, Sauter said that he’s remained a positive influence for the team.

“He’s handled it as well as anybody could,” Sauter said. “He had the surgery and he’s on the rehab process. He’s always been an influential person, not only with the rest of the quarterbacks, but the entire team. He’s a real positive kid. He knows there are better days ahead of him.”

Those better days for Gimbel are on the horizon. Gimbel currently has his arm in a sling, but in two weeks he will be out of the sling and begin the rehab process.

“Right now I’m in a sling,” Gimbel said. “I’ll be in the sling for two more weeks. That will be about the month mark since surgery. Than I’ll start some assisted range of motion. I’ll just start trying to gain full range of motion. Once I have full range of motion I can start the strengthening process.”

With Gimbel back in 2018 the Mustangs could be in store for a bounce back season. They’ll say goodbye to 15 seniors, but will have talented players returning.

One of those talented players is linebacker Alex Ney, who finished the season with a team-leading 120 tackles.

Michael Griffin will return after finishing the season with 85 tackles.

Max Simmons and Shawn Griffin will give the Mustangs a talented duo at running back. The two backs combined for 686 yards and seven touchdowns.

Gimbel said missing the 2017 season gave him motivation to come back stronger. With Gimbel back under center the Mustangs could be a dangerous team in 2018.

“It’s motivation for 2018,” Gimbel said. “It’s not somewhere where you want to be. We want to get back to the standard of Mustang football. I think we can get back there and we will.”