Bengals balancing jobs with workouts this summer

Idaho State quarterback Tanner Gueller (4) throws a pass against Western Oregon during their game Aug. 31, 2017 at Holt Arena. Doug Lindley / Idaho State Journal

POCATELLO — Head to any area business this summer, and there’s a chance you’ll be served by your favorite Bengals football player.

Around 70 Idaho State football players stayed in Pocatello this summer to train for the 2018 season. And without any stipends or financial aid available, many of them work part-time or full-time jobs to pay rent and cover other expenses.

So if you’re greeted by Mitch Gueller or Michael Dean at the Pocatello Jamba Juice, it’s not a publicity stunt. If Tanner Gueller or Dallen Collins touches up your trim, it’s not community service.

And after work, it’s off to the weight room or practice field for voluntary workouts.

“It’s not easy, definitely not,” Mitch Gueller said at an ISU football media event June 18 at the Orthopedic Center next to Holt Arena. “But I think it’s something that we should all feel proud of. Everybody’s really worked hard to be here and work out. Just look at the number of guys we have here that are willing to work and do that. I think it’s definitely something to be proud of.”

While working summer jobs may be the norm for many college students, most Division I football players don’t have the same challenge.

But because of budget constraints facing ISU, scholarship money was not available for football players this summer. Bengals head coach Rob Phenicie said some players have the “bare bones” of summer expenses covered by scholarships, but his team is largely here on its own dime — something he can relate to from his time at the University of Memphis in the late 1980s.

“I worked at an oil company in Memphis when I was playing and put cooking oil into tanker cars at 3 in the morning,” Phenicie said. “What they’re doing now is they’re establishing a culture. Before, 10-12 guys was the norm. This is the norm. You need to be here developing as a team. College football’s year-round.”

Though the players’ jobs take time away from their personal lives and might complicate scheduling a workout with teammates, the team hopes its dedication to progress is only amplified in the win column this upcoming season.

“Most guys, they have to go to work from about 10-2 then come lift weights,” said Bengals running back James Madison, who does not have a summer job. “And on top of that, we’ve got running in the morning. … To not have a scholarship and be here, it’s saying a lot.”

Plus, it gives fans and players alike a chance to interact as equals, whether it be Dean and Mitch Gueller serving up smoothies or Tanner Gueller and Collins painting houses or any of the other jobs ISU football players are working this summer.

“I think it’s cool meeting all the faces that actually come to our games,” Dean said. “It’s as tough for them to see us through a facemask as it is for us to see them up in the stands. So when they come through and they see me and Mitch working, they’re like, ‘Oh, you guys are football players.’

“We’re able to meet fans that come and support us, and I think that’s awesome.”