Iowa State Cyclones

Fishing, family, faith: Iowa State QB Brock Purdy made the best of break from football

Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy (15) throws a pass in front of Notre Dame defensive lineman Adetokunbo Ogundeji (91)
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy (15) throws a pass in front of Notre Dame defensive lineman Adetokunbo Ogundeji (91) during the 2019 Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Fla. (Associated Press)

AMES — Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy cast a line out into the Florida waters and fished.

And it’s not what he did while he was fishing — it’s what he didn’t do.

He didn’t think about football.

Near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., Purdy went to Florida with his family for spring break (Purdy’s dad is from the area and his family still lives there).

The junior quarterback was stranded in Florida for weeks, and that was a good thing for Purdy.

He was able to take time away from football and reflect for the first time since he became Iowa State’s starting quarterback in 2018.

Ever since he was thrust into the Oklahoma State game on Iowa State’s second drive of the game in 2018, Purdy has been “the guy.” He’s had to grow and fail in real time without much time to sit back and evaluate.

“We were down there for about a month and a half together with my father’s family,” Purdy said. “It turned out great, as far as being with my family and staying safe. To be honest with you, it was a great time for me to just reflect on everything going on.

“Being in Ames for a year and a half so far and always thinking about football and what I could do better to help this team — it was just football, football, football. I felt like there was a lot of pressure and stuff going on in my head and stuff, as far as what happened last year. So just being able to be with my family for a month in a half, just being able to fish, to have my mom cook dinner and stuff and be with my father, my brother, my sister — for me, there’s nothing better.”

Purdy reflected on a lot during his time in Florida — his faith, his purpose as a person, the pandemic, the social problems — all of it.

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“My father, brother and I, every single morning would just read the Word and talk about our faith and everything,” Purdy said. “Understand what our purpose is here in life — especially with everything going on. For me to be able to step back and understand that life’s not all about football and sports and everything, was important — there’s a much bigger thing going on.

“Being able to understand what my purpose is here in life, I think was huge for me and to be honest with you, just cleared my mind up.”

In hindsight, Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell could see his star quarterback needed to take a deep breath and step away from football for a bit.

“I almost feel like Brock was excited to be stranded in Florida,” Campbell said. “I think that was a really powerful time for Brock. It’s been a whirlwind for Brock in a lot of ways during his first year and a half here in Ames. I think it was good for Brock.

"It was healthy for him to step back away from football and to be a kid again, to go fishing, to hang out with his brother, to be with his family.

“The best thing that could’ve happened for Brock is that there wasn’t spring football. He was able to let his body heal and get healthy. He was able to grow outside of football instead of inside of it.”

For Purdy, it wasn’t just his physical health — yes, he did battle ankle injuries last season — but more importantly, it was his mental health.

Purdy puts a lot of pressure on himself, like many successful athletes and people in general. Even though he broke 18 school records last season, he wasn’t happy with himself and how the team finished.

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The Cyclones were just 7-6 last season. It was a year in which they were expected to make a jump.

“I’m just trying to understand that everything in life happens for a reason,” Purdy said. “Last season happened for a reason to me.”

Purdy read books on dealing with anxiety and pressures during the quarantine.

“I can go back to those experiences I had last season and reflect on them — what I could’ve done better, what I did do right — those are all things I’ve been thinking about in the offseason,” Purdy said. “The quarantine has provided a great opportunity for me to step back and reflect on everything that’s going on.

“I’ve been taking my mental health more serious than anything — yes, my ankles are all healed up — but being able to get right mentally was my main focus this offseason and so far I think it’s been great.”

Purdy and Campbell both believe that a refreshed Purdy is poised for a special season in 2020.

Every year, Campbell talks about how experienced quarterbacks are like a coach on the field. He said it about Baker Mayfield at Oklahoma, Charlie Brewer at Baylor and Nate Stanley at Iowa.

Now, Campbell believes Purdy will take that step to become a coach on the field for Iowa State.

“I think the biggest thing is Brock has had so many experiences. Right?” Campbell said. “Life is about experiences. Positive and negative and learning and growing from them — and at a very young age at the collegiate level Brock has experienced all those: positives, negatives, ups, downs.

“I think Brock has become our 11th coach. He’s almost a player-coach at times. He’s a guy that doesn’t need somebody to self-start him every day. He’s a guy that’s driven to be great. And he’s a guy that demands the best of everybody around him and you’ve seen him do that at a really high level.”

Purdy’s teammates saw the early makings of that last season when they elected the then-sophomore a team captain.

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“Brock’s grown — whether that’s in the ability to communicate with his teammates over the last couple months, whether that’s the ability to get his teammates accountable to fundamentals and details, or whether it’s as we’ve been back even in his group, in demanding the accountability of simplicity,” Campbell said. “Touch the line. Start behind the line. Do the little things right. It’s been really fun to watch Brock grow.

“But again, the greatest thing about Brock Purdy is he’s not trying to be anybody else. He’s just trying to be the best version of himself and he’s trying to do something.”

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