Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Geno Hess: Redhawks’ record-breaking running back

Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Running back Geno Hess hoists the Gameball Brawl trophy after SEMO’s 45-7 victory against Lindenwood University. Hess ended the game with 115 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns.
Photo by Beto Vaca Diez

Graduate Student Geno Hess, the star running back for the Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) Redhawks, is geared up for his final year of college football, and fans can expect nothing short of greatness from this seasoned athlete.

Standing at 5’8” and weighing 225 pounds, Hess is a force to be reckoned with on the gridiron.

Hess led the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in touchdowns in the 2020 season and was an All-American player in 2021.

In the 2022 season, Hess took it a step further by setting records and earning accolades.

Hess earned a First Team All-OVC selection, based on 1,691 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on 236 carries, averaging 7.2 yards per carry. He caught nine passes for 114 yards and added two more touchdowns. He was voted the 2023 Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) Male Athlete of the Year.

He secured the title of OVC Offensive Player of the Year, becoming only the third player in SEMO’s program history to achieve this honor.

Despite his already impressive track record, Hess remains dedicated to improvement. He is closing in on the OVC rushing record.

The record was set by Markus Thomas from Eastern Kentucky in 1989 through 1992 with 5,149 yards. Hess is currently at 4,365 yards, only 784 yards away from the record.

He has focused on pass protection and receiving, and is working on elevating his football IQ.

“I think the thing that makes him great year after year is that he’s always finding things he needs to get better at and working on them. He’s continually growing and trying to make his weaknesses strengths,” Redhawks running backs coach Luke Berblinger said.

Berblinger said casual fans might not be aware of just how much running backs need to know beyond their running skills.

“This year, he learned all of our formations even though that doesn’t necessarily pertain to what he needs to do. He’s really big on trying to know protections and then blitzes and such that could be issues for those protections,” Berblinger said.

Hess’s coaches described what sets him apart as a running back as his strength, his great vision, his center of gravity or balance on the field, and his exceptional ability to break arm tackles and turn short runs into big gains.

Hess described his game in three words as, “Patient, caring, and fun.”

“This is the same game I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old. Nothing’s really changed, except everybody just got stronger and faster. You just can’t leave the fun part out of it,” Hess said.

Head Coach Tom Matukewicz described Hess’s value in their offensive strategies this year.

“We’re trying to be balanced on offense. You know, if you can only throw it or you can only run it, somebody is going to be good enough to make you play left-handed,” Coach Matukewicz said, “but if Geno doesn’t have a good game, it’s going to be tough for us on offense.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Coach Berblinger underscored the importance of leadership from Hess.

“The biggest thing we need to see is his ability to be a leader and drive other people on the team to succeed. A lot of people follow him, so if he’s working the hardest and he’s got the best mindset, other people are going to do the same.”

With Hess’s return, SEMO fans can look forward to an exciting 2023 season.

When looking forward to his final year in red and black, Hess shared a message to Redhawk fans.

“Come out. You’re going to get your money’s worth. You’re going to have a great time. Tailgating is awesome, the community is behind us, and this team has a lot to show. There’s no better time to be a Redhawk," Hess said.