116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Cedar Rapids Prairie star Gabe Burkle will play tight end at Iowa State.
But Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell defines him and fellow tight end recruit Andrew Keller with a more expansive two-word term: “Elite winner.”
Those attributes, Campbell said, ripple through each of the 22 recruits who inked with ISU on Wednesday on early signing day — and it’s the chief reason he described the highest-rated class in program history as “really special.”
“(Burkle is) kind of cut out of the Dylan Soehner, Chase Allen type — physicality, big, physical, strong football player,” Campbell said in a late Wednesday afternoon Zoom call. “A guy that had to overcome adversity his junior year (when he) tore his ACL and that’s never easy, but bounced back (and) had an absolutely incredible year his senior year. (He) put his team in the final four in the state (in Class 5A), and one of the guys when you talk about character, leadership, fighting through adversity — all things we talk a lot about our program, Gabe already defines that at an elite level.”
The Cyclones ended up with the No. 22 class nationally per Rivals and 26th-best according to 247Sports.
Defensive lineman Hunter Deyo of Council Bluffs and wide receiver Greg Gaines of Tampa, Fla., both acquired consensus four-star ratings from recruiting services and both personify Campbell’s “elite winner” narrative.
Deyo helped Lewis Central to its first Class 4A crown over Xavier. Gaines will try to propel Tampa Bay Tech to its first Class 7A Florida title on Friday night.
Sprinkle in linebackers Jacob Imming of Sergeant Bluff and Will McLaughlin, who won a Class 3A state title with Harlan, and Campbell’s “winning” theme deepens.
“I think when you look at this whole class, we’ve still got guys that are competing for state championships (and) their seasons aren’t done yet,” said Campbell, who added two transfers in Delaware linebacker Colby Reeder and Minnesota defensive lineman M.J. Anderson.
“You talk about a guy in Will McLaughlin, that’s a state champion. You talk about Jacob Imming, who had an incredible career and with his coach did an incredible job of building that program to be a deep playoff team. And then even in state, you throw in Hunter Deyo, another state champion. You’re talking about getting guys from programs that understand what it takes to be successful, know how to win, and then to be able to bring those qualities to Iowa State and continue to infuse our locker room with those very qualities.”
The Cyclones — who play No. 19 Clemson in the Dec. 29 Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando, Fla. — will enter the 2022 season with gaps to fill across most of its position groups. Of 20 senior starters who have graduated, only one has formally announced he’ll return by utilizing his COVID year: Longtime starting cornerback Anthony Johnson.
A few more may also opt to come back, but Campbell said Wednesday’s influx of talent coupled with the Cyclones’ current players will keep his program on an upward trajectory — a projected path charted by “elite winners,” of the past, present and future.
“I think we feel really confident about our roster moving forward,” Campbell said. “Maybe as confident today as maybe we’ve been in a long time just in terms of alignment. I think for us with losing — especially with our senior class, knowing maybe some of the areas that we were going to really need to fortify to strengthen us moving forward, we really feel like we hit on that on almost every single spot that we set out to (do so). … I give a lot of credit to Derek Hoodjer. Derek does an incredible job in terms of (being) our recruiting coordinator, kind of guiding (us), just making sure our alignment of who we’re bringing in in terms of position group, to continue to look two, three years down the road. That’s something that I really enjoy, for Derek and I to constantly be looking ahead. I think that’s what we did in this class.”