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AMES — As much as Allen Lazard potentially stood to gain from going pro, he felt he could gain even more by returning to college.
Iowa State’s junior wide receiver opted to skip the 2017 NFL Draft and return to play for the Cyclones next fall. The temptation to leave school early and pursue professional endeavors was present, but his deliberation steered him back to school.
“I can gain a lot more this next year than right now,” Lazard said. “I could raise my draft stock and make a lot more money and have another year to develop and mature and be ready to make that step to become a professional athlete and go out in the real world.”
Lazard became the fourth wide receiver in school history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a season (1,018) and also led the team in receptions (69) and touchdown catches (7). The 69 catches rank second in program history for receptions in a season.
At 6-foot-5 and 223-pounds, Lazard has the size and ability that can’t be taught or learned, but there is still a lot to do before he pursues the NFL.
Lazard received feedback from NFL scouts and personnel, by way of the ISU coaching staff, about where he projected in the upcoming draft. The consensus was he’d be a fifth-round or later choice, which was another factor to stay in school.
“It’s a crapshoot. I think Allen’s too good of a player to make it a crapshoot,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said of the NFL Draft. “He’s a guy that can be definitive in what he does. And what he’s got the ability to become.
“I think Allen’s got the tools to become a No. 1 receiver at some point in the National Football League if he continues to develop and he continues to grow in his game.”
Speed is one of Lazard’s biggest areas of focus in the offseason. He said he ran a 4.4 40-yard dash last offseason, but really started to find his rhythm within the new ISU offense in the last five games.
He averaged 7.0 receptions, 114.0 yards and had three touchdowns over the final five weeks, which coincided with quarterback Jacob Park taking on more of the signal-calling responsibilities.
The opportunity to play in a bowl game for the first time wasn’t ignored in the decision, either.
“Leaving Iowa State on a good note and being able to leave a bigger footprint than I have and just make sure when I leave this program that I kind of have a legacy here,” Lazard said. “I want to be remembered for years to come and just make sure this last year sets up for years down the road for this program to have success.”
Lazard’s return means a couple wide receiver school records could fall. He’s second in receptions (170), third in receiving yards (2,419) and second in touchdown catches (16), trailing former All-Big 12 receiver Todd Blythe in every category.
He would need seven catches, 678 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns to catch Blythe. Lazard holds the school record with 35 consecutive games with at least one reception.
“My goal is to be the first on all those lists,” Lazard said. “That touchdown mark’s a little bit, that’s kind of a long shot but I’m going to do my best job. I may have to buy Park a few more meals in this offseason to get more balls.
“(Blythe) has a great record and he did it in less catches…I’m just grateful to be back and be able to go compete for that.”
One last go around! pic.twitter.com/FgCBZW22nJ— Allen Lazard (@AllenLazard) December 2, 2016