Central's Fields faces big senior season

May 2—A local student-athlete known for his electric play on the field and court is facing one of the most important decisions of his life — where to continue his athletic and academic career.

Running back Gabe Fields is seen as a dominant athlete on the field, helping surge Central High School's football team to a 7-3 season in 2023 and a 4-0 start for the first time since 1986.

"He loves to be out, whether it's on the field, on the track, on the court, he loves to be on the field competing," Fields' basketball coach Jacob Kimble said. "He's one of those kids that, you know, never wants to come out of a game. Not everybody has that competitive drive and so that's been really fun to coach."

The skills the soon-to-be senior possesses haven't gone unnoticed. Fields has drawn so much attention that Division I schools are contacting him, seeing if they can pull a gem from St. Joseph, a community that has produced athletes who have made it to the biggest stages, like NFL player Mike Rucker and the NBA League's Diego Bernard.

"Growing up, always going to the games and seeing those players that you would go watch, like as a kid, I'd watch Diego, and I was like, 'Man, OK,' like everybody's around him," Fields said. "So when I got to high school, I mean, I really wasn't expecting it, but it just happened over time through showing up every day and just doing what you're supposed to do."

Attention for his athletic ability is nothing new for Fields. Before Central, his talent stood out to anyone watching during his middle school days.

Grandfather John Johnson remembers parents approaching him during those early football contests and commenting on Fields' potential.

Since then, the teen's work ethic has grown with him, his coaches note.

"He doesn't skip reps, he's pushing himself ... you can see it because he's drenched in sweat," newly hired Central football coach Sheldon Farrell said. "He can hardly talk sometimes because he's so tired."

Fields is also a player who takes direction.

"There've been times in the past where maybe I wanted to get mad at Gabe, but it's hard to get mad at Gabe because he's so coachable, you know," Kimble said. "And he's the first one that knows when he made a mistake and he corrects it, and when he makes a play that gets locked and he knows that he can do that same thing again."

Fields' journey requires not only a lot of hard work but trust in yourself, your teammates and your coaches.

"He's always trying to pick people up. I've never seen him point a finger," Kimble said of Fields. "Learning how to be a great teammate is something that's going to go on and make you a great employee, a great husband, a great dad and you know, he has those attributes."

Fields' grandparents have played an important part in his life, supporting him through his childhood. That relationship has been important, particularly in the recruitment process, Fields said.

"They've helped me a lot, honestly," he said. "Every time I need to go somewhere, to go away for a college visit, like, 'Hey, can we get in the car and go' (and they're) like, 'Yes, we'll go.'"

It hasn't just been Fields' grandfather who has been present. His grandmother, also known as Nana, has been his idol.

"I love her a lot. The sporting events are good with her going there," Fields said. "I know there's some nights we lose. I come home, I'll see her, she'll just be like, 'What happened tonight Gabe,' but I know she loves me still, so that's what's most important."

Despite having friends on the South Side and in the North End, Fields said he found a true home at Central.

"To be a Central Indian, it's a big family. It's a big network, everybody loves everybody," Fields said. "If you're doing a sport, you might have someone reach out to you and say, 'Hey, I want to help you.'"

While schools including Iowa State, Baylor and Vanderbilt are courting him for his athletic talent and academic ability, Fields said he also brings something more to the mix.

"I think everybody needs kindness no matter what it is, you never know what someone else is going through," Fields said. "Not everybody's going to say something about what they're going through on that certain day, so I think being nice at all times goes a long way."