AMES — Iowa State has the nation’s leading rusher in Breece Hall and Brock Purdy has been sacked less than any other quarterback in the Big 12.
Those two playmakers get the headlines, but the big fellas up front need to get some credit.
Coach Matt Campbell has talked about how left tackle Sean Foster has revitalized his career in his senior season and how junior left guard Derek Schweiger has filled in well for the injured Trevor Downing. He’s also talked about the two freshmen on the right side of the line — Darrell Simmons and Jake Remsburg — and the job they’ve done as young players.
But junior Colin Newell has steadily, and quietly, led Iowa State’s offensive line into becoming one of the best in the Big 12.
“He’s the anchor,” Campbell said of the Ames native. “Colin is really a special young man. He’s a young man that is an incredible leader. He’s a young man that has loved Iowa State from the first day that I had the opportunity to meet him.
“One of the things that I knew about Colin is Colin would someday become the best version of himself that he could be.”
That path took a bit of a detour last season when he was a sophomore. Newell got hurt in Iowa State’s first game of the season.
“He was coming off of what would have been a really good redshirt freshman year — he started every game at center and then to lose him and miss a season, that’s hard,” Campbell said. “And I am just so impressed with not just how he came back from the injury, but how he’s been able to lead and demand a sense of consistency and demand a sense of standard within that offensive line room.
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“I think Colin’s a young man that’s held that standard from the day he’s been back and really from January on and I think what’s happened is a lot of those guys have risen to his level of success and preparation.”
Iowa State fans are beginning to see what the best version of Newell looks like.
Hall sees it, too. However, he doesn’t see it for very long before he bursts through the hole Newell helped open up for him.
“He means everything to this offense,” Hall said. “He’s the one that corrects everybody on the offensive line, makes all the calls, sets the protection and everything like that. Having him is a big help.
“He’s one of the smartest guys on the offense. He always knows what to do. He calls out the mike points in the run — he helps out everywhere.”
Campbell thought Newell would have a veteran running mate this season to help him guide the young and inexperienced players on the line in Downing. But Downing got hurt in Iowa State’s first game, so it’s been all Newell guiding the line.
“He was that guy before Trevor went down,” Campbell said. “There were two of them, but that’s what I love about Colin Newell. It’s that there’s been no change in Colin Newell. You’ve just seen growth. He’s always demanded the best of himself and he’s cared so much that he’s had this unique ability even as a young player to demand the best of others around him.
“Obviously it was great to have a partner in crime in Trevor to start the season, with the experience that Trevor had, but that’s what I love about Colin. He’s been the same guy every day and I think that’s why you see him playing at such a high rate for us.”