Iowa State's Matt Campbell all about the slow build

Cyclone football coach wants to make sure program keeps winning

Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell greets defensive back Brian Peavy (10) as he goes around to each of his players before the first half of the Big 12 Conference football game between the Cyclones and the TCU Horned Frogs at Jack Trice Stadium on Oct. 28. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell greets defensive back Brian Peavy (10) as he goes around to each of his players before the first half of the Big 12 Conference football game between the Cyclones and the TCU Horned Frogs at Jack Trice Stadium on Oct. 28. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

AMES — Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell held a team meeting after the Cyclones upset then-No. 3 Oklahoma on the road Oct. 7.

The meeting was about how to deal with success. National pundits like ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit repeatedly said Campbell was gone after the season, moving on to a bigger and better school.

“In that team meeting we talked a lot about how you handle success and how you handle what gets said about players — and ego is the enemy in a lot of ways.” Campbell said. “And part of that is, is coach Campbell leaving, is he going to this job or that job?

“That’s not happening. It’s not true. I brought it up in a team meeting but the reality of it is when it keeps showing up in 18- (to) 22-year-olds face, eventually you have to do something and be who you say you are in the process.”

On Monday, Campbell and athletics director Jamie Pollard did something. They announced a restructured contract for Campbell that pays him $3.5 million per year for six years.

They met at Pollard’s house with their wives after the regular season was over to discuss the future of Iowa State football.

“What I really liked about Jamie, if you know me, I’m not even interested in talking about (contracts),” Campbell said. “This is a subject I don’t even like to talk about, it’s not interesting to me. I want to win. All I cared about the last four to five to six weeks of the season was winning football games.


“One of the things I really appreciated about Jamie was not talking about this, not pushing this subject on, not sitting down to have to talk about it. The only thing he asked me a week ago was, ‘Can we sit down next Sunday and would you have a chance to come over and have a chance to sit down and just talk?' That’s what I really appreciate, that’s why I want to be here, that’s why I want to be around people like that, that really get it.”

Campbell came to Iowa State wanting to build a program and a culture that will sustain success, something the Cyclones haven’t had since the early 2000s.

Campbell said he and his staff are working relentlessly every day to achieve that.

Creating that culture at a school like Iowa State, where national pundits don’t believe sustained winning is possible, is challenging.

But the doubt just fueled Campbell’s fire.

“You hear that (you can’t win at Iowa State),” Campbell said. “I said that in the middle of the season, it almost fuels my fire. I feel like my fire is raging more today than it was two years ago when I got here about where we can take this football program and what we can do here.

“People feel like what we did this year was a fluke.”

But Campbell knows to build a real, sustainable program and not just a flash in the pan, it has to be a slow build.

“In real football programs, the seniors teach the juniors how to lead so when it’s their time to lead they know how to lead and then it just goes on and on and on,” Campbell said. “That’s what happens in real programs. In programs where everybody is trying to shortcut it or trying to go get the next job, then it becomes fractured and those things are really hard.”

Campbell pointed to receiver Allen Lazard, linebacker Joel Lanning, defensive linemen Vernell Trent and J.D. Waggoner, punter Colin Downing, quarterback Kyle Kempt and safety Kamari Cotton-Moya as players who gave more to the program than they took. That, Campbell said, is what’s needed to sustain success.

“You saw the ramifications of that this year,” Campbell said. “Was it always perfect? No. But was it a team that played as hard as they could for as long as they could and gave everything to being successful? It sure was. That part is really rewarding.”


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It all comes down to one thing for Campbell — be who you say you are. He reiterated during Tuesday’s news conference he was in it for the long haul no matter what, but the new contract validates that claim to recruits, fans and other schools looking for a new coach.

“The reality from my end of it is there has not been one day where I’ve ever been disappointed that I came to Iowa State,” Campbell said. “There’s been some tough days, but there’s been some great rewards of it, too. To watch this senior class and what they’ve been able to do to flip the culture has been really rewarding. I think there’s just a lot of fire that rages in me right now about where we can take this program and what can happen with it.

“Changing that national narrative is going to take time. We know that. Consistency and consistency of success is what changes the narrative.”

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