Saddle up: Gimbel follows MHS pipeline to SW Minnesota State

Southwest Minnesota State has had a strong pipeline with Marshalltown High School athletes over the past few years.

Marshalltown’s record-setting quarterback Blake Gimbel added his name to the list Wednesday when he committed to play for the Mustangs starting this fall.

Gimbel will join former Bobcat wide receiver Ty Steffensen on next year’s roster, while former MHS quarterback Tyler Peschong finished his final season this past fall. Gimbel said the strong relationship he has gained with the school’s coaching staff and the Marshalltown ties to the program influenced him the most.

“It was easy to see when I made my visit there that it was going to be the place for me,” said Gimbel, who picked SMSU over Winona State. “The coaching staff is great and everything I have heard about the program from (Steffensen) and (Peschong) has been positive. I am really excited to get started.”

Gimbel set numerous passing records in his career at Marshalltown. He threw for an Iowa record 3,979 yards in back-to-back seasons and is third on the all-time passing yards list with 8,206 yards.

The records don’t stop there though. He also has the most passing yards ever in one game (567), most completions in a single season (301) and is second all-time in completions in a game (42, twice) and touchdowns in a game (7).

“(The Mustangs) are very similar to what we do here, so I think the transition for Blake will be pretty easy,” Marshalltown coach Dave Holdiman said. “It is a very good fit.”

Two of the top four single game yardage totals also belong to Gimbel as he threw for 567 and 520 yards in 2011 and added a 488-yard effort against Mason City in 2012.

Gimbel ran a wide-open, shotgun spread offense during his career at Marshalltown. At Southwest Minnesota State, he will run plays under center and the Mustangs feature more of a rushing attack.

“It’ll be different, but anywhere I would go would be different,” Gimbel said. “You don’t throw 50 times a game at very many colleges. Some of the plays I saw when I was there looked similar to what we run here so that was good. I am excited for the new challenge.”

Holdiman said Marshalltown practice snapping under center some in practice, but the Bobcat offense just doesn’t call for a lot of it. How Gimbel adjusts to it will essentially depend on the work he puts in.

“He’s a great athlete, so I don’t think that will be an issue,” Holdiman said.

Peschong recently finalized his career at Southwest Minnesota State. He threw for 2,423 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions this past season in guiding the Mustangs to a 4-7 record.

Gimbel was heavily influenced by Peschong as a junior high athlete. He said the former Bobcat is excited about his decision to play for the Mustangs.

“He was so excited,” Gimbel said. “He wants me to succeed, and he knows that I can succeed at Southwest Minnesota State. I look up to him a lot.”

Steffensen was a big part of Gimbel’s junior season when he hauled in 97 passes and 13 touchdowns. That dynamic duo will have the chance to set more records in college.

“He kept nagging me and telling me to ‘saddle up,'” Gimbel said. “I got to know him really well last year, and we had a lot of fun on the field together. We have a special bond, and I am looking forward to playing with him again.

“‘Saddle up’ is something I heard a lot on my recruiting visit – ‘Saddle Up ‘Stangs.'”

Holdiman said Gimbel reuniting with Steffensen is like a dream come true for the two former teammates.

“It’s living the dream for those two,” Holdiman said. “I look forward to seeing what those two can do. They’ll grow into college athletes and will do some great things together.”

Steffensen redshirted last year and earned the team award for best offensive scout player. Gimbel will redshirt this upcoming season and learn the new offense. He then hopes to compete for a starting job the following season.

“I will be on the scout offense going up against the team’s No. 1 defense,” Gimbel said. “That will help me in the process. I hope to battle for playing time the following year.”

Both Southwest Minnesota State and Winona State are in Minnesota. Winona, Minn., is about three and half hours from Marshalltown. Southwest Minnesota State is located in Marshall, Minn., which is about five hours away.

“I didn’t have a problem going out of state, and the distances from (Marshalltown) didn’t really influence me,” Gimbel said. “Five hours is a trek, but it doesn’t prevent me from coming home once in a while.”

The Bobcats went 7-4 in each of the last two seasons with Gimbel at quarterback. He won two playoff games during that stretch as well.

“I think the experiences we had in high school will help me in college,” he said. “All the throws I made in high school will be throws I will have to make in college. But the change in offense will be a nice switch up. They also run some pistol, which I am looking forward to as well.”