116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Seventy days separated the first fateful snap from the last.
In that span last season, Iowa State quarterback Hunter Dekkers went from slightly-experienced college football player to semi-veteran backup behind Brock Purdy.
The former West Sioux standout threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score within that relatively brief time frame. He also tossed one interception, but numbers didn’t define his growth into the Cyclones’ clear No. 1 quarterback entering this fall camp. Demeanor did.
“Just being calm,” Dekkers said on Tuesday’s media day at Jack Trice Stadium. “I mean, first snap, I wouldn’t really say I was nervous, but it’s always something like you’re anxious. All that type of stuff. And then going into my last snap, I would say you’re not really thinking about it. Your nerves are gone. They are. They’re gone. You don’t even think about it anymore because you’re in the middle of a game.”
Now Dekkers finds himself on the cusp of a full season of snaps for the younger-than-usual Cyclones, who must replace several other key starters, including at running back, tight end and linebacker.
Head coach Matt Campbell and his staff, of course, have planned for this transition. And by all accounts today’s upstarts such as Dekkers are poised to make their own lasting marks on the 2022 season and beyond.
“He’s actually been on the field and had the opportunity to play the game of football and command the offense,” said Campbell, whose team notched its program-record fifth-straight winning season in 2021. “I think those experiences, whether they were positive or maybe not as positive (were) great learning opportunities. Those are always positive for me as the coach.”
They’re also inconclusive. Therein lies the reason for excitement or concern — depending on one’s mental makeup — as ISU enters a new season without Purdy and several other of the best players who have donned a Cyclone uniform such as running back Breece Hall, tight end Charlie Kolar and linebacker Mike Rose, among others.
“I’ll probably say it a million times,” Campbell said. ‘Man, coach, what kind of team do you think you have?’ Well, we don’t know — and you’re not going to know until we get into the season, and we have to play in front of 70,000 people, and we have to go execute our assignment and do our job.”
So stay tuned. Just don’t expect Campbell or anyone else affiliated with the Cyclones to be anything less than bullish about the team’s prospects in 2022 despite the high-profile personnel shuffles and diminished outside expectations.
“It’s going to be exciting,” said former Cedar Rapids Washington star O’Rien Vance, who chose to return for a sixth season because of the extra year of eligibility granted to players because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I can’t wait. For me, it’s always great every year, year in and year out, seeing guys who no one knows about or guys people haven’t seen play come out and ball.”
So who are some of the guys besides Dekkers? It’s an expansive group, beginning at running back where Jirehl Brock returns the most experience, but will be pushed by other promising players such as Deon Silas, Eli Sanders and Cartevious Norton.
“We’ll take as long as it takes,” Campbell said. “Is it by committee? Is there somebody that kind of steps out into the forefront? I think no matter what it is, we feel very confident that whatever it is, it’s got the tools to be pretty special and has the tools to be up to the standard that running back room has lived through the course of that last couple of years.”
The same holds true at quarterback as Dekkers takes the reins calmly, coolly, and with heightened confidence.
Thirty-two days from Tuesday’s media gathering, he’ll take the next biggest snap of his career in the season opener against Southeast Missouri State. No nerves. No pressure. All upside.
“What really helps is your preparation for the game,” Dekkers said. “Mentally, physically, all of it.”