116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES - Josh Knipfel sat and waited by the phone.
The calls he wanted never came.
As a senior at Hampton-Dumont in 2015, Knipfel had dreams of playing Division I football. Now he's the starting right guard at Iowa State as a true sophomore.
The journey from small-town Iowa to the Big 12 had a poetic way of coming together, particularly because it was the school he grew up idolizing.
From seventh grade through his junior year of high school, Knipfel went to every Iowa State football home game with a close friend whose family had season tickets.
'I was the kid on the hill that wanted to be those guys out there,” Knipfel said. 'Now it's just a dream come true.”
The Iowa Western transfer spent one season in Council Bluffs before enrolling at Iowa State. At 6-foot-5 and 317 pounds, Knipfel adds the kind of big bodied interior lineman the Cyclones are trying to fill their roster with.
He wasn't always sought after though.
Knipfel's future had limited options when he was nearing the end of high school. He wanted to play Division I football, but didn't yield a single offer. Junior college ball, particularly Iowa Western, was the next best option to create exposure.
'Iowa Western came and talked to me right when we got done with the playoffs,” Knipfel said. 'They talked me through the whole thing. I was waiting there hoping for something, but that never came. Iowa Western gave me a chance and I'm grateful for what they did.”
The plan always was for Knipfel to play two years and accumulate offers while helping shore up the Reivers' offensive line. Iowa Western averaged 172.2 yards per game on the ground, 400 yards total, in 2016 and Knipfel started to hear from schools.
Florida Atlantic was the first to offer before Michigan State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia showed interest.
It was Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell and his staff, though, that really piqued Knipfel's interest when they offered in late May. He was already enrolled in classes for his second year at Iowa Western, but jumped at the chance to go to Ames.
'He's a good learner. He's powerful and he's strong,” Campbell said. 'If you said ‘Matt who's the kid you've been most impressed with of any of your kids on the offensive line?' it'd be Josh. He comes everyday like he wants this team to have great success.
'I'm excited about Josh. He gives us some depth and maneuverability in the offensive line.”
Knipfel battled for the starting right guard spot in fall camp and secured it over junior Oge Udeogu, who is dealing with an arm injury. He's in line to start again against Iowa on Saturday at 11 a.m. (ESPN2) while still acclimating himself to Division I football.
He is constantly clutching his iPad, learning as much as he can whenever he has a little free time. That initiative has stood out to teammates and been encouraging to see, particularly since he's still just 19 years old.
'You see a kid that really wants to be good,” said offensive coordinator and line coach Tom Manning. 'I think at that position in particular when you have a passion to get yourself better I think your growth can happen more rapidly than some other positions. He's made great strides since he's been here.”
Of Iowa State's five starting offensive linemen, four are in-state players. Senior Jake Campos, sophomore Julian Good-Jones, Knipfel and sophomore Bryce Meeker are part of a revamped offensive line that has established a foundation that Campbell and Co. have wanted since Day 1.
Campbell called the 2017 offensive line recruiting class the best he's assembled anywhere he's coached. Alex Kleinow, a 6-5 and 275-pounder who prepped at Iowa City West, is the lone Iowan in that group, but Robert Hudson of Walled Lake, Mich., is putting himself in position to get snaps as a true freshman.
'I think that'll be something that'll continue to be a priority to us is trying to do a great job in our six- to eight-hour radius and that starts right here at home in making sure we recruit the guys that give us a chance to be successful,” Campbell said. 'They're still young and still have a lot of growth to do. I think you'll just continue to see them get better as well.”
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