Whitworth’s Ian Kolste sets his sights on conference title

Whitworth senior quarterback Ian Kolste wants to win the Northwest Conference, but powerhouse Linfield stands in his way. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

With the sort of resume most quarterbacks covet, Whitworth senior Ian Kolste is less interested in his laurels than he is his shortcomings.

His nation-leading 3,790 passing yards and 351 completions were nice.

The myriad school records, Northwest Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Year and preseason All-America distinction are impressive, too.

But Kolste, one of just four fifth-year seniors, can’t help but think of what he hasn’t done.

“I’ve never beaten Linfield. I’ve never won a (Northwest) conference title and I’ve never won a playoff game,” said Kolste, who boasts a 17-4 record as Whitworth’s starter the last two seasons. “I can care less about records.”

With the bulk of his offensive line back from a year ago, including most of his favorite targets, there’s no reason to believe the 6-foot-1, 202-pound Kolste can’t check those boxes.

If not for a season-ending shoulder injury in 2014 and an ensuing medical redshirt, Kolste would have exhausted his eligibility last fall.

It proved to be serendipitous. Sitting out that fall ultimately helped boost his development.

“I started started seeing more progression. The game started to slow down,” said Kolste, who also started a couple games as a true freshman in 2013, 19-year head coach John Tully’s final season. “Now I want to take more of a leadership role and help elevate my teammates.”

In 2015, Kolste made a name for himself in the NCAA Division III ranks after passing for 2,810 yards and helping Whitworth reach the first round of the playoffs.

In 2016, Kolste continued to shred opposing secondaries and led the Pirates to an 8-2 mark. If not for a 50-49 overtime loss to Central Iowa in the season opener, Whitworth would have likely returned to the playoffs.

Whitworth looks to return the favor on Sept. 2 when it travels to Pella, Iowa, to open the season.

“We have the talent to do some stuff this season,” he said. “There’s talent all over the place. I am really excited about our receiving corps.”

Fourth-year head coach Rod Sandberg is excited about another year with his prized gunslinger.

“He’s a special player that can do some really special things. I’ve been in this game a long time and have seen a couple like him,” Sandberg said. “That allows you to do a lot of things, and gives other guys confidence.”

Senior cornerback LJ Benson has the daunting task of trying to break up Kolste’s passes and trying to stop him from breaking off lengthy runs in practice.

“I think Ian is a very good all-around quarterback,” Benson said. “He can sling the ball, is very accurate, can make people miss. He is very well-rounded.”

After starring at Oak Harbor, Kolste didn’t generate any interest from FCS or FBS schools and had originally planned to walk on at Eastern Washington.

A recruiting trip to north Spokane changed his plans.

“I came and instantly liked the school and the students,” said Kolste, a Health and Science major.

Sandberg, who accepted the position in December of 2013 via Wheaton College, was glad that visit transpired.

“He’s just so poised and relaxed. No moments too big or too low, pretty even keel,” Sandberg said. “People like him, he does the right things. He’s a role model for my kids. He’s the entire package, really.”

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