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Iowa State football ‘bigs’ bond behind barbecue and clashes in the trenches
Food is the binding agent. A shared goal serves as the savory seasoning.
AMES — They line up on opposite sides of the so-called trenches.
They’re big, powerful and intent on wreaking havoc on foes. But they’re also teammates — and nothing connects Iowa State’s burly brethren of offensive and defensive linemen like a sumptuous spread of barbecue.
“There were a lot of plates and a lot of food being tossed around and that’s outstanding,” Cyclones defensive line coach Eli Rasheed said of this summer’s inaugural BBQ shared by “the bigs” — his moniker for the front men on each side of the ball. “But that’s the thing we want to build here: that brotherhood amongst what we’re calling our bigs. That’s our brotherhood together and it’s been fantastic.”
So pass the brisket — and protect the passer. Food is the binding agent. A shared goal serves as the savory seasoning. It’s just a tweak, of course, but one that’s meaningful for both veteran linemen such as center Trevor Downing and less experienced players like defensive lineman Blake Peterson.
“That was nice to get out there,” said Peterson, a redshirt junior who notched his first two career sacks last season. “Because in years past the D-line, the O-line would do their own thing. But getting together and eating with those guys, that’s a lot of fun.”
Call it mindful eating. The offensive line returns two players with significant starting experience in Downing and guard Darrell Simmons Jr. The defensive line returns all-time sacks leader Will McDonald and tackle Isaiah Lee, but must replace former standouts Enyi Uwazurike and Zach Petersen.
That’s where Peterson — and a handful of others — comes in when the menu items shift to actual football games beginning with the Sept. 3 season opener against Southeast Missouri State.
“I’ll tell you what, he is one hard-working cat,” Rasheed said of Peterson. “He’s gonna give you attitude and effort. He’s gonna stop the run. He’s gonna be around the football. I think that guy right there is a big key to our success.”
That’s because Peterson can play inside or outside, which Uwazurike and Peterson excelled at.
“(He’ll) hopefully give us some more pass rush there, but he’s that flex guy that can go from the field to the boundary,” Rasheed said.
But back to the dinner table. Which group wolfed down the most BBQ?
“I’m gonna say the O-line,” Peterson said. “They’ve got some guys 320 (pounds), 330. We’ve got (6-foot-4, 350-pound true freshman) Dom (Orange) — he was probably up there, too, but definitely the O-line.”
Regardless, the calories and the togetherness could add up as designed by Rasheed and offensive line coach Jeff Meyers.
“We had a great cookout and all the food servings and things like that, but we want to keep those groups together,” Rasheed said. “If those guys can come together, man, we’ll have a chance to win some football games for sure.”
Iowa State running backs and receivers coach Nate Scheelhaase said redshirt freshman running back Eli Sanders caught an 80-yard “touchdown” pass in ISU’s most-recent practice.
Why the quotes around touchdown? Converted defensive back Darien Porter had something to say about that.
“I just came out of the backfield, left side, and Darien was on the other side and he’s just one of the fastest dudes on our team,” Sanders said. “We just went into a foot race and probably got it back to the 5 (yard line) and he was on my hip.”