116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Iowa State wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson’s phone dinged.
The star senior receiver had just received a text message after the Cyclones’ disappointing, 20-14, loss last Saturday at Oklahoma State — and it proved to be an uplifting one.
The sender? Former ISU standout Allen Lazard, whose program record for career catches had been broken by Hutchinson hours earlier.
“Heartwarming,” said Hutchinson, who hopes to aid the Cyclones (4-6, 1-6) in attaining a much-need win at 6 p.m. Saturday against Texas Tech (5-5, 3-4) on Senior Night at Jack Trice Stadium. “He told me he was proud of me.”
Hutchinson hauled in 10 catches in the loss to the Cowboys to push his career total to 244. Lazard caught 241 passes from 2014-17 and emerged as a key figure in helping head coach Matt Campbell turn a forlorn program into a winning one.
Hutchinson’s three-year span as a Cyclone has included starting in the school’s first New Year’s Six Bowl — the 2021 Fiesta Bowl — as well as weathering this season’s spate of close losses. ISU matched a program record with nine wins in his first season and is scrambling to secure bowl eligibility in his final go-around.
“I think our legacy is no matter what you keep fighting,” Hutchinson said. “It could have been so quick here that we bagged it and just called it a season. But that’s not how these seniors are built here. They’re truly built different.
“Whether fans or any outsiders want to give them recognition for that, they are. And, man, this program is going to be in really good hands after this year, I believe. They’ve learned from a lot of our mistakes that we’ve went through this year.”
Hutchinson, of course, is one of those seniors. And while the win-loss record doesn’t reflect it, Campbell said his most experienced Cyclones have kept the team unified, even as tough times hit on a nearly weekly basis in surprising and gut-wrenching ways.
“I think I said about last year’s senior class, they were like the bridge builders of Iowa State football in a lot of ways,” Campbell said. “And that definitely wasn’t demeaning to anybody, (but) the pathway that they showed us — how to win, how to sustain success, how to be successful — they were the core tenants of that.
“As I look at this year’s class, there’s a lot of those guys who have been pivotal characters in that journey as well, but not one of those guys came back for personal benefit.”
Guys like Hutchinson. Guys such as linebacker O’Rien Vance, safety Anthony Johnson and defensive end Will McDonald. They’ve served as the maintainers of that bridge to success from Sunday through Friday, even as positive results on Saturday remain elusive in 2022.
“The building maintainers — that’s a great name to go out with, honestly,” Hutchinson said. “I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Hopefully people can just learn from us; learn from our mistakes, learn from our growth, learn from our success. Build on that.”
It will be cold Saturday night. Bone-chilling, not heartwarming. But Hutchinson will smile through it, perhaps after shedding a tear or two.
“I just can’t wait to ride out these last two or three games with these guys here,” he said. “You know, just move on to the next chapter.”