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AMES — Iowa State is to the point of the football season where the seniors begin reminiscing on their time as Cyclones.
They see the finish line is just a few games away. Saturday’s game at Oklahoma will be their last road game.
After that, it’s senior day against TCU.
“I’ve always had a cop-out before,” tight end Chase Allen said. “Like last year, I went through senior day, but I knew I could come back. That’s not a possibility anymore. It just makes things like running out of the tunnel against Texas that much more memorable and special.”
While reflecting during Tuesday’s media availability, Allen, a four-time first-team academic all-Big 12 member as an engineering major, wishes he would have spent more time with teammates.
“These last few weeks, I’ve really been spending as much time as I can with them because I know there aren’t many more chances like that left,” he said. “If I could go back, I would’ve spent more time with them instead of trying to get a 100 percent on an assignment — as bad as that might sound.”
He and his teammates, like fellow tight end and senior Charlie Kolar, are spending more time in the team room and more time in the film room. They’re watching film and studying for their next opponent, no doubt.
But they also don’t want to leave.
“We’re here really late at night and we don’t go home until really late,” Allen said. “We all have goals and aspirations that we want to achieve together. It means a lot to continue to do that.”
They’re trying to take it day-by-day and stay in the moment, but they can’t help but to reflect.
“I’ve been here a while, Chase has been here a long time and we’ve played together a long time. There are a lot of emotions,” Kolar said, getting choked up. “There’s a lot of gratitude but there’s a sadness and a realization that these people that you spent so much of your life with and poured so much of your time into and you’re never going to be in the same room with them again like this on the same team. It’s definitely sad.
“But we can always look back and be grateful for these relationships that I have with a lot of these guys — especially the guys I came in with and played with for years. I’ll always hold those for the rest of my life and they’ll be my lifelong friends. It’s weird that it’s coming to an end.”
What’s making it more difficult for these seniors is the Cyclones haven’t had the season they expected. Kolar, Allen and the rest of the players who could have left came back to make a return trip to Dallas for the Big 12 championship game.
In all likelihood, that’s off the table now.
“We have guys who have an opportunity to go to five straight bowl games,” said Allen, who is one of those players as a sixth-year senior. “That’s something that was unheard of when we got here. Being in a position to go to the championship game last year, and we really wanted to go there this year and it looks like it’s not going to be that way. But so what? We’ve only gone to it one time before in our history. What are we going to do, pack up our bags just because we’re not going to that game? No. We have so much to play for and so much to do.
“I don’t know where we’ll end up, but we’re going to try and execute it the best that we can.”
If there’s one thing Iowa State is used to dealing with, it’s adversity.
“We pour a lot of time, love and effort into this game and to come up short — we seem to find heartbreaking ways to lose,” Kolar said. “Sometimes it’s the way we play and sometimes it’s the things that happen. It sucks for everyone but it’s just a little different for us. This is my team, this is Chase’s team, this is Greg (Eisworth’s) and Brock (Purdy’s) team. This is our last year. Obviously it’s frustrating. There’s no yelling at each other but there are emotions. To come up short in something, it hurts.
“It’s the beauty and it’s the terribleness of sports — the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. It’s hard when you have a season like this where you don’t always get exactly what you want, initially. But the important thing is what you do for the program and the example you leave for the younger guys.
“I’m not stupid, the season hasn’t gone the way everyone thought. It hasn’t been perfect. The one thing I can take pride in and my fellow classmates can take pride in is we did everything in our power to leave this place better than we found it. While it’s not perfect, there still is beauty in the struggle and I think it’s something this senior class can be proud of.”