Ben Gustafson Maximizes Success

Elkhorn South High School (ESHS) graduated senior Ben Gustafson has always loved sports. His first love was basketball. Even at the tender age of two, he threw a fit when he had to leave a Husker basketball game at half time. “Apparently, it was my bed time,” he said. Football has also been a huge part of Gustafson’s life. “Being a part of the Elkhorn South football junior teams growing up and then playing for Elkhorn South High School has been awesome. All my friends go to school there, and I have played football with a lot of them since kindergarten.” He got started with football by throwing the ball around with his dad and then joining flag football early on. “Once I was big enough, my parents let me join a club tackle football team. I also played club and school basketball.”

Gustafson has been a highly sought after football college recruit. “Some of the schools that recruited me were South Dakota State University, University of Northern Iowa, University of Montana, University of South Dakota, Kansas State University, and University of Nebraska. I chose Northern Illinois University (NIU) because I really liked how the coaches talked to me and made me feel. It felt like a family I wanted to be a part of. I knew I wanted to decide before my senior year started. My mom and dad both encouraged me to do what was best for me. They may not be very excited about the distance, but they are excited to watch me play there. Once I made my decision, I posted my commitment on Twitter/X.” Gustafson plans to major in business finance or accounting at NIU.

Elkhorn South varsity football coach Guy Rosenberg believes Gustafson is an excellent player and a leader. “He’s got great feet from his basketball background. We love multi-sport athletes here at Elkhorn South and Ben’s combo of size, athleticism, and work ethic are tough to beat. Ben really invested in the off-season and maximized his development physically during his time at ESHS. And what’s even more exciting is that his best football is ahead of him. I know that coaches at Northern Illinois can’t wait to have him on campus. With his height, long arms, athleticism, and mean streak, Ben is a prototype offensive tackle. These traits make him a great pass protector.”

Gustafson was happily surprised at the district playoff game against Millard South High School last season. It was the second time they’d played each other. “We were down 14 points starting the third quarter, then everything just started to click for us. The stadium was so loud from our fans, and we were jumping up and down cheering on the sidelines. Winning that game sent us to the state championship at Memorial Stadium.”

He is proud of how hard his high school team has worked. “All four years of my high school career, Elkhorn South made it into the district playoffs. I was so happy and excited that my senior year we made it all the way to the state finals. It wasn’t the ending we would have liked but what an experience to play in Memorial Stadium.”

Outside of varsity football, Ben stays busy. “I play intramural basketball and volleyball. My friends and I also get together and play poker, go swimming, boating, or golfing. We had to extend my golf clubs over the winter due to my height. I have vastly improved my golf game this year.” 

There were some obstacles that Gustafson has had to deal with over the years. “I have had to overcome some injuries from playing basketball. I have broken my wrist, sprained an ankle badly, and broken the same foot twice. Sitting on the sidelines is not fun, but I always showed up to cheer on my teammates.” His internal drive has kept him focused. “I just like to win.”

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