John Goebel is playing for his third UC head coach in five years, and the frequent turnover at the top has caused almost a yearly change in his role. He was a safety as a freshman, redshirted as a sophomore and has held various responsibilities from starting running back to special team performer over the last three seasons. But through it all, the senior has maintained a team-first mentality.
During the 2008 season, Goebel was enjoying his heyday when he carried the football 133 times gaining 625 yards (good enough for second on the squad), but the Michigan native played very sparingly last season and in this year’s opening game at Fresno State. He has only recently started to see an increase in playing time. Nevertheless, this nearly twenty-three-year-old athlete has handled the trying situations during his career much better than most.
“It’s been difficult. It’s been frustrating,” said Goebel. “But I always refer back to the truth, Romans 8:28 says, ‘All things happen for the good for those who love God, who are called according to his will.’ I just keep remembering that everything happens for the good. Jeremiah 29:11 says, ‘God has plans for us for a great harvest.’ God doesn’t want us to be sad or upset. I have to look at every trial in my life as something that can make me better.”
Although Goebel hasn’t gotten many touches so far this season, he has shown some production. He has 13 total carries for 98 yards for a 7.5 yard per carry average including two touchdowns (although 75 of those yards came against Indiana State). As a receiver, he has 2 catches for 12 yards, but one was a 4 yard touchdown reception against Oklahoma so he was asked if he’s become a short yardage situational player.
“I don’t know,” he said. “But it’s been great being able to play with Isaiah Pead and Darrin Williams.”
Goebel was referencing the fact that recently the UC offense has utilized more two-back offensive sets. He continued.
“I really don’t see myself as a short yardage back as much as a downhill runner. A lot of times that means short yardage, but when there’s green grass, I can make the long runs too.”
At a listed 6-feet-2, 213 pounds, Goebel is the Bearcats’ biggest back, and after giving up fifteen sacks in three games, he could be UC’s best weapon against blitzes. The senior would welcome any challenge that gets him on the field.
“When I was younger, I wanted the ball a bunch, but at this point in my career, I just want to be out there helping my team in any way I can. It was awesome being alongside Isaiah Pead trying to lead block for him against Oklahoma.”
Goebel has seemingly replaced Craig Carey as the Bearcats’ most enthusiastic substitute and can often be seem exhorting his teammates from the sideline. Many seniors would choose to pout in this situation but not Goebel. Being part of a football family just doesn’t allow it.
“My dad was always my coach in little league, and he always told us that encouragement is a great way to motivate. He always said to find the kid in the lunchroom that nobody sits with and sit with him. That is one of the core values I grew up with, and as a player, I just want to win so bad and will do anything to help us win.”
Goebel’s father played football at Ball State while his older brother played at Michigan State.
The Bearcat running back continued.
“I know how much pressure we can put on ourselves, and I want to be there to tell my teammates that everything is okay if they make a mistake.”
Unlike most on the UC football team, this fifth year senior knows what it’s like to start the season with a 1-3 record. It happened in 2006 when Goebel was a true freshman so he’s been serving as a mentor to some of his younger teammates.
“I played that year because I didn’t redshirt until the next season, and it’s really hard. I think we’re a better team that what our record shows. We’ve lost to some very good teams just like we did that year. We believe this is a whole new season starting with Miami of Ohio followed by the Big East schedule. Things can still fall the way we want them to.”
Winning the “Battle for the Victory Bell” doesn’t even appear in the team room’s list of nine goals for the season (although the Keg of Nails and River City Trophy games are listed). Probably it’s an oversight, but after four straight UC wins, some Bearcat fans seem to be taking Saturday’s game for granted. However, Goebel’s not one of them.
“Maybe in the community the excitement isn’t there as much, but within the football family, we’re very serious about this. Last week’s practices were very intense. It wasn’t like a normal bye week.”
Goebel then related a memory from four years ago that drove home his point.
“In 2006, Adam Shorter (former UC player) was a GA (graduate assistant). He had never won the Victory Bell here, and after we won, I remember seeing tears in his eyes as he rang the bell for probably a half hour. That’s when I knew how important it was.”
Although he feels passionately about winning the traveling trophy, Goebel isn’t at all excited about carrying it.
“That thing is really heavy,” laughed Goebel. “That job goes to the freshmen.”
The 115th Battle for the Victory Bell will be played on Saturday night at 7 o’clock at Nippert Stadium.