116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Iowa State hybrid tight end Jared Rus briefly pondered the question.
Just how many offers did the former North Scott standout entertain before deciding to walk on with the Cyclones in 2018?
“I think I had some FCS offers,” Rus said. “Maybe like North Dakota.”
Maybe. May be. In that word — or two words — Rus’ meteoric rise from overlooked walk-on to highly skilled starter at ISU’s “F” position can be suitably summed up.
Cyclones football coach Matt Campbell dubbed him a “transformational” player. He deeply impacts the running and passing games. He’ll likely make his third straight and ninth career start in ISU’s game against Ohio at 1 p.m. Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium — and he’ll savor every snap, block and possible pass that comes his way.
Rus’ journey through multiple position groups, an LCL tear and an inauspicious start to his career provides an object lesson in discipline, belief and sheer perseverance.
“That first spring ball I think I ‘MA’d’ (had missed assignments) on all the plays that I got,” said Rus, who has caught nine passes for 77 yards the past two seasons. “And then getting no reps and battling with some guys on the depth chart is pretty tough to go through, but things opened up. I was ready for my opportunities and people helped me along the way.”
People such as former ISU All-American and current Baltimore Raven Charlie Kolar. When Rus struggled to execute plays in camp, Kolar extended a helping hand.
“I was thinking maybe I’ll be done here,” Rus said. “I don’t want to play here anymore. There’s no role for me. And then there’s people like Charlie who would take me in when I had, like, no role on the team, and give me the inspiration to keep going.”
Kolar pored over video with Rus. He helped him diagnose problems and find solutions. Others also stepped in to help Rus find the right track — and once he did, his learning curve rapidly accelerated.
“(Tight ends) coach (Taylor) Mouser’s always been there for me in my corner no matter what,” Rus said. “So it was just the people and the culture around here. I just wanted to succeed and help the team any way I could.”
The LCL tear slowed Rus’ progress, but what was expected to be a six-month recovery turned into a four-month window for healing.
“I’ll be really honest with you, I don’t know if we knew he would be available at the start of the season and it was hard because of his senior year, what it meant to him,” Campbell said. “And, man, that guy, I think he played 45 plays on Saturday (in ISU’s 10-7 win at Iowa), and (was) as physical and violent as maybe anyone on the football field. He’s one of those guys (who’s) transformed himself, but along the way, as a leader, is transforming our football team.”
Rus’ role is similar to the one another former walk-on carved out early in Campbell’s tenure. That would be Sam Seonbuchner, who is now a graduate assistant coach with the Cyclones.
“He’s always been supportive of me and boosts me up a lot,” Rus said. “I’m thankful for that guy for a lot of different reasons.”
And ISU’s thankful the 6-foot-2, 242-pound Rus buckled down instead of bowing out while struggling as a linebacker and fullback-like tight end. Turns out Mr. “maybe” — or “may be” — possessed a can-do mentality all along.
“I definitely don’t have the best talent, but working hard and doing the right things is gonna get noticed by somebody like Coach Campbell,” Rus said. “I’m thankful for him being on my side and helping me out so much — and helping so many other people out. There’s a million different stories just like me.
“And then back home, I’m thankful for all those people. A lot of people reached out and are proud of me, and I’m thankful that I get to represent North Scott like that and my family, too. I’m really thankful for my family.”