AMES — Jacob Park has lived a fast-paced life and grown accustomed to the chaos it brings.
He hasn’t known anything else.
As he enters his second season with the Iowa State football team, Park is getting used to a new norm: stability and responsibility. That brings its own challenges.
Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell is holding his junior signal caller to a new standard. Talent has never been a concern with Park, but in his position, he has to be more than just a guy with a good arm.
His maturity has to be felt in every layer of the program.
“(Campbell’s) always preaching attention to detail,” Park said. “I’ll do the hard things and it’s no problem to me, but it’s the little things like dinner on Sundays, like, ‘It wouldn’t be that bad if I missed it.’ Then you miss it and it’s the end of the world and then you’re running every morning.
“It’s just the detail things, it’s growing up, you’ve got to do stuff like that.”
As a consensus four-star recruit and Elite 11 quarterback who signed with Georgia out of high school, Park wasn’t always concerned with details. He transferred and spent the next year at Trident Technical College and Northeast Oklahoma A&M, spending a semester at each, but didn’t play football at either school.
By the time he got to Ames, he had been out of the game more than a year — he did play in a church league, but that’s as close as he got.
Park missed spring practices last year and parts of fall camp while dealing with an illness. When he saw action for the first time against Iowa, he was doing it almost solely on talent.
“He had been with us and practicing for probably about a month,” quarterbacks coach Jim Hofher said. “I think his best play started coming in October and beyond, and clearly in the latter third of the season is when he became the starter. He’s a dynamic passer.”
Park threw for 1,791 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions and a 58.8 percent completion rate, but really shined in the five games he started — 60.5 percent completion rate, 264.4 yards per game and eight touchdowns. Park’s increased comfortability yielded results.
“I think he’s going to do his thing as the end of the season told,” said redshirt freshman quarterback Zeb Noland. “All he’s going to do is get better and smarter at what’s going on and it’ll slow down for him as well, I believe.”
Now that the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Park has had a full year of offseason work and is going through spring practices, his gamesmanship is finally catching up to his raw, physical talents.
“It’ll show during the season, but in the spring you install a lot slower, you start to perfect things, they don’t just throw the whole playbook in in three weeks,” Park said. “So I think this year is going to benefit me a lot as far as making my reads faster and mastering concepts.
“It’ll be night and day from last season to this season.”
The minutia of the game isn’t lost on Park anymore. During spring practices, the quarterbacks have had microphone receivers placed inside their helmets so coaches can instruct them all the way up until the snap.
Hofher talks into a microphone that looks similar to a cell phone, giving reminders of the checks to make. The reminders can often get as specific as reminding Park to place his right foot a few inches in a different direction.
“Those coaching points that you write down in the classroom, those four or five bullets that he gives you for each play, he repeats those to you,” Park said. “So when you walk up to the line, whether he says it or not, you can hear him. That’s the kind of learner I am and it’s helped me a lot.”
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Park hasn’t lacked confidence, either. His standards for on-field production always have been high. Now he’ll try to get Iowa State back to the postseason for the first time in five years.
“If you’re a fan and you don’t believe that we can win (every game) and you guys are going to be satisfied with us losing, then I can’t wait to see how happy you are when we win them all. You know?” Park said. “Next season is going to be really interesting and my ceiling is set very high for us next year.”
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