AMES — Iowa State football’s current senior class has faced a lot of adversity.
It’s gone through everything from a two-win season and 50-point losses to a coaching change after its sophomore year.
The seniors have been through it all.
And they’re better because of it.
Saturday is No. 21 Iowa State’s senior day where 19 seniors will be honored before the game against No. 11 Oklahoma State. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. in Jack Trice Stadium.
“It’ll be emotional on Saturday for me just because I know it’s hard to create change in our society, it’s hard to create change period,” Coach Matt Campbell said. “These 19 young men, they’ve created change. We wouldn’t be here without them.
“Every single one of them has a story. Every single one of them has had a profound impact on why we’re improving and getting better and why we’ve been able to stay the course through the good and through the tough. We owe so much to those guys.”
Three of those 19 seniors grew up within a 20-mile radius of each other and played a major role in the change.
Receiver Allen Lazard came in as the most highly-touted recruit in Iowa State history. He was expected to break records and be a leader of the offense. He has.
Linebacker Joel Lanning was a dual-threat high school quarterback with a cannon for an arm and the body of a linebacker. He switched from quarterback to linebacker before his senior season, putting the team before himself and becoming selflessness incarnate.
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Offensive lineman Jake Campos had the frame to put on weight and the skill to be something special. He endured injuries, including a broken leg last season, and came back better than he was before.
“We were all on the offense together,” Campos said. “I was protecting Joel and Joel was throwing to Allen so it was really special to see all three of us do as well as we have — it’s absolutely awesome.”
While these three have been successful throughout their time at Iowa State, the team hasn’t.
“Coming from (West Des Moines) Valley, I think I had six losses throughout high school, and then I came here and had a two-win season,” Campos said. “It’s really humbling and it teaches you how to deal with adversity and how to push through it.”
And they did.
Iowa State could have crumbled after the coaching change. It was tough because they were all young.
“The coaching change was one of those deals where either we come together or it’s going to be a bad deal,” Lanning said. “I had never been through it and I was kind of a veteran guy at the time as a redshirt sophomore. We have to stick together or things are going to get even worse than it has been. We all stuck together and bought into what Coach Campbell said. We never looked back, honestly.”
Now, the Cyclones are having one of the best seasons in school history. They have two top-five wins and have a legitimate shot at making the Big 12 Championship game.
It makes all the adversity, all the losses and all the injuries worth it.
“It’s an incredible group of seniors,” defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said. “I’ve been doing this for quite a while and transition is very difficult for everyone. This group has done a great job of taking change by the horns and really becoming the voice of the locker room. They run the team, they know what’s expected, they lead by example, they handle situations. I’ve been nothing but impressed by them.
“They made my job a lot of fun — I love this group. I go in every day and I can’t even think about being down, tired, anything. When you’re around those guys, they’re just incredible. I love this group. It’s one of the best senior groups I’ve been around in all my years.”
For Lazard, who holds virtually every receiving record in Iowa State history, this season stands out.
“This year is the thing I’m most proud of,” Lazard said.
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