116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Jake Hummel set himself. Then he delivered the blow.
The site: The UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
The scene: West Des Moines Dowling versus Ankeny Centennial in a playoff game.
The situation: A Jaguars receiver ran a crossing route and …
“The hit that Jake put on that kid was probably one of those where, ‘OK, he’s arrived,’” Dowling head coach Tom Wilson said, recalling the play.
Hummel — who will close his decorated Iowa State career Wednesday at 4:45 p.m. in the Cheez-It Bowl against No. 19 Clemson in Orlando, Fla. — played a role in three of the Maroons’ record seven straight state titles from 2013 to 2019.
He’s now in an ISU program-record 62 games — and will join sixth-year seniors Chase Allen and Enyi Uwazurike as the only Cyclones to play in five bowls.
So once Hummel “arrives” anywhere, he stays and succeeds until there’s no time left.
That’s where the hard-hitting linebacker sits now, staring down a dwindling clock, determined to make those final moments count as he maintains fond memories of the earliest ones.
“Even to go 8-5 as a freshman (in 2017) coming off that season when they went 3-9, a lot of expectations were exceeded, especially early on, which is really cool,” Hummel said. “I never expected to be playing in five bowl games. Like, if I were to tell myself that as a senior in high school, I’d probably think I was lying. But it’s been really cool. Definitely, like I said, just a blessing.”
Hummel worked his way into the special teams unit as a freshman in 2017. He helped send off seniors such as Allen Lazard and Joel Lanning with a win in the Liberty Bowl over Memphis and slowly did what Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell implores all his players to do: “Make me play you.”
Hummel will make his 25th consecutive start against the Tigers. He boasts a career-high 5.5 tackles for loss and four passes defended this season. He also owns a pick-6 — the second of his career.
“It’s just fitting for him to be at the right place at the right time because that’s the type of player that he is,” Wilson said.
That’s solid as granite. Never flashy. Always dependable.
Hummel’s development as a player mirrors that of ISU as a program. Wins never come easy. Losses lurk behind lapses in attention to detail — as they have during the Cyclones’ current 7-5 season that came on the heels of a 9-3 mark and first New Year’s Six Bowl win over Oregon in 2020.
“I think our record is a reflection of who we are as a team, just who we were in the regular season,” Hummel said. “But I do think it’s not — we didn't reach our full potential at times, and I think this is just another opportunity to show that we can reach our full potential still in this year, and with this team, and to be able to do it against a great team such as Clemson.”
The Tigers (9-3) missed out on the four-team College Football Playoff for the first time since 2014, so they’ve dealt with their own set of near-misses.
They lost by a touchdown to No. 3 Georgia. They fell in double-overtime to No. 18 North Carolina State. Kenny Pickett and 13th-ranked Pitt beat them, 27-17.
Clemson has won four straight games since — and remains an extremely formidable foe rippling with four and five-star standouts.
“They’re talented players,” Hummel said. “They like to run the ball. Big quarterback.”
So big hits await. Probably some tough misses, too. Either way, Hummel will be in the right place at the right time, ready to deliver his best shot.
“I think really what you have as a blue-collar player that's gonna do all the little things that we as coaches want our kids to do,” Wilson said. “He's going to be one of the first guys in the weight room, one of the last guys to leave. And he's going to be a great example for everybody else. And then basically he's going to settle in and play excellent football for you and be a big part of your success. And he's really done that at both places that he's gone.”