No one likes to get an “F” in anything they do. An “F” means failure, a lack of any kind of success, but to the Gustavus Adolphus Gusties an “F” means something completely different. For them it is the first letter in the last names of their two outstanding safeties, Xavier Fust and Jake Forcier. For the Gusties, they will take those F’s all day long.
The two seniors have risen to become one of the best safety duos in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), rivaling the vaunted duos of both the Bethel Royals and the St. John’s Johnnies. These two men have made their mark on an up-and-coming program looking for their seventh win of the season this weekend.
While both are outstanding football players, they are also quite unique from one another. Forcier is one of the Gusties captains, and is a guy very comfortable with taking the lead on the field. He is the consummate leader who will be instructing and inspiring as the game goes along. Forcier has been a starter since his sophomore year, and has seen it as his mission to give to his team no matter whether he is on the field or not.
“I want to be a man who has committed himself to the tradition of the school. I have had some injuries in my time here, but I have always tried to find ways to make a contribution in whatever way I can. I think that is part of what leadership is all about.”
Contributing during a time of injury has been something that the senior safety has had to do again this year, as an injury has sidelined him from playing the last four weeks. He is still giving his all in any way he can. “I think that is part of being a good captain. I may not always be able to give my all on the field, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give it in other ways.”
That is the kind of leadership that has earned the respect of his coach and teammates. “Jake is an incredible leader,” Coach Peter Haugen tells of his captain. “He gives his all for this team, and he is the kind of guy you can completely rely on as a coach.”
Fust agrees, “Jake is always a guy who has been able to help and direct guys. Even before he was captain he was a guy that people looked up to. He has that kind of personality about him.”
While Forcier is the guy trying to direct what is going on with the team, Fust is making a statement by the tenacious way that he plays on the field. The 5-10, 205 pound safety is a hitting machine, who will take on any opponent in any situation. Attack the line, chase the quarterback, cover a back out of the backfield, play zone; Fust can do it all, and he does it with incredible tenacity.
“Xavier is the toughest guy on the football field,” Coach Haugen explains. “He is like a brick. He hits and hits.” And when he hits? “You can literally feel it on the sideline.”
Forcier agrees, “Xavier is a pounder. He will get his hat in there and attack the line. He is the very definition of Gusties Swarm.”
Gusties Swarm is the term the team uses for the mentality of 11 guys rushing to make a tackle. This is not a big team, so speed and smarts need to play an integral part in their game plan. That plan also includes an incredible design from their defensive coordinator, Coach Johnson, who has taken advantage of the speed and intelligence of the team to make the Gusties one of the toughest defenses in the MIAC. Speed and intelligence make a huge difference, but physicality is important as well, and Fust is the living embodiment of this.
Don’t tell him that however. While he embraces the fact that people think he is so tough, it is not something that he is particulary proud of. “I take pride in people calling me tough, but I don’t think it makes me very smart to let myself get pounded each week.”
While he may be correct about being pounded upon each week, the reality is that both of these young men are very intelligent, on and off of the field. Both are business majors, and have high aspirations for their futures, something that they have the intelligence, education and ability to do. Clearly they both have the drive to accomplish their goals. It is the same ferocious tenacity they have displayed on the football field the last four years.
These are two men who have been molded by coaches, teachers, friends and fellow players, but that is not where their instruction has ended. The five primary defensive backs have helped each other to grow as Fust points out. “We are all close friends, so there is no problem with us critiquing each other. We will tell one another what needs to be improved and that is taken well by each of us. We expect that.”
Beyond the school, Forcier and Fust have been influenced heavily by their parents. “My dad has missed just one game,” Forcier explains. “He has always been there for every game in my career but that one. He has been such an incredible influence in teaching me to play hard and also to lead in my play. My mom is always there to pick me up when I am down. Sometimes I get mad because we lost and I don’t want to hear to ‘keep my head up,’ but she shows me that I need to do that. She always makes me see the positive.”
Fust was raised primarily by his mother, and her influence over him he recognizes every day. “I have such a great relationship with my mom. She is really quiet generally, unless you get her riled up; then watch out. I think I am a lot like her in that way. I am quiet until I hit that field and then I change. That is like my mom when she is riled up.”
The two seniors enter Saturday’s game as their last in a Gusties uniform. For Forcier he may have already played his last game. His injury has not healed as he hoped and so he may be sitting out the contest against St. Thomas.
Play or not, one thing is sure; Xavier Fust and Jake Forcier have represented the Gusties football team, Gustavus Adolphus, their families and themselves well. They are men that have helped to turn around a program into one of the better ones in the MIAC. Both will graduate this year and move on in life, and if they approach the business world with the same tenacity and intelligence that they use on the field no one should be surprised to see them running a Fortune 500 company one day. I know I sure won’t be.
By Robert Pannier