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AMES — Matt Campbell read a poem to his Iowa State team after its game against TCU on Friday.
The Cyclones beat the Horned Frogs 48-14 on senior night, capping off the careers of the best seniors to ever play at Iowa State.
The poem was “The Bridge Builder” by Will Allen Dromgoole.
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
Iowa State football was that dark chasm with the river running through it. On the other side of the chasm was the elusive success the Cyclones had been looking for, for so long.
“One of the things I think that this group has done is, man, they came to a river that had never been crossed, and brick by brick, they built the bridge,” Campbell said. “They didn’t run from it. They didn’t try to escape it. They just built a bridge.”
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The seniors found their success — they’re the most accomplished senior class in Iowa State history. It has secured a trip to a fifth-straight bowl game, it played in the Big 12 championship game last year and won the Fiesta Bowl.
And instead of riding off into the sunset, they built a bridge for the next group of Iowa State football players, so success could come easier.
“They built the bridge for the youth coming up after them — and they showed them the way,” Campbell said. “I think that’s one of the greatest gifts that this class has given is, man, they’ve been unbelievable teachers. They’ve been unbelievable leaders and, really, they’ve had the capacity to get it done every single step of the way.”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
This senior class, led by the likes of Brock Purdy, Chase Allen, Greg Eisworth, Mike Rose, Enyi Uwazurike, Anthony Johnson, was selfless enough that even though this season may not have gone exactly to the script they wanted, still helped set up the future classes to have success.
“The games we’ve played and the experiences we’ve been through, we’re now all able to share that with the younger guys,” Purdy said. “(Quarterbacks) coach (Joel) Gordon told us quarterbacks, ‘Just because Brock went through all of these things, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a cakewalk in the future for Hunter (Dekkers) or any other quarterback coming in. It’s going to be hard.’ But they can look back at the things that I went through and build off of those and learn from those.
“Those are the bridges Coach is talking about that we’ve left and established. And I do feel like we’ve left something for this next generation to continue to build off of.”
And Campbell couldn’t be more thankful for those seniors.
“The bridge that they’ve built for Iowa State football going forward is maybe one of the most powerful bridges that this program has ever seen because (it had) never been built,” Campbell said. “And this group did it.”
“They didn’t come here when it was the Alamo Bowl or winning the Fiesta Bowl. They came here when there was no hope. And they chose to blaze a trail. When Chase Allen came here, man, it was about as bad as it could be. Every one of these guys who chose to come back to Iowa State have literally put this program on the map. Man, these guys came here and blazed a trail.
“To me, is it special? Yeah, it’s really special because they have never let it waver. Their resiliency, their toughness, their character, man it’s really special. It has a special place in my heart because they believed in me, they believed in us, they believed in our staff when not a lot of people believed in this place.”