FRISCO, Texas — Inundated, overwhelmed and overloaded are great words describing how NFL rookies feel about the immense quantity of new information thrown at them during their first season in the league.
Quarterbacks, of course, must absorb more data than any other position, but offensive linemen also have their fair share to take in, a lesson former Iowa State offensive tackle Jake Campos learned last season in Dallas.
Campos, 24, who played in Ames between 2013 and 2017, spent last season on the Cowboys’ practice squad, which allowed him to learn plenty from the league’s top offensive line, a group including guard Zack Martin and fellow tackle Tyron Smith, who have 11 combined Pro Bowl selections.
“First year was me just getting here and learning what pro football is all about. Getting through camp learning from guys like Tyron (Smith) and guards with Zack (Martin) and Travis (Frederick), there’s just so much football knowledge in that (offensive line) room,” Campos said last week during Organized Team Activities (OTAs). “It’s a little intimidating when you first come in, but now I’m finally starting to figure it out. Going into the second year, it’s about refining the knowledge and getting a deeper understanding of the plays instead of just trying to get through them.”
But if Campos has to pick two veterans he’s learned from most, it would be fellow tackles La’el Collins and Smith.
“It’s so great just to stand there and watch. Both those guys have so much to learn from,” he said. “Their technique is flawless. Seeing them do their thing and then trying my best to emulate the good things that they do, you couldn’t ask for a better two guys to watch.”
Last season, Campos had a fellow Cyclone in defensive tackle David Irving as a Cowboys teammate. However, Irving is no longer in Dallas, but Cedar Rapids native Drew Scott is now on the roster as a long snapper, and Campos, who prepped at West Des Moines Valley, always is happy to meet anyone with ties to his home state.
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“Yeah, it’s pretty cool. Anytime you see a guy from Iowa down south, it’s pretty cool,” Campos said.
Campos said he’s gotten bigger, stronger and faster in his year-plus in Dallas and his overall understanding of the game is much greater thanks to all the lessons he’s gleaned from the talented offensive linemen in front of him on the depth chart.
And, as for spending last season on the Cowboys’ practice squad, the experience, other than the lower pay compared to being on the 53-man active roster, isn’t much different than it is for his teammates who play every week.
“Practice squad’s all about helping the team anyway you can when you go out there. You’re trying to perfect your craft, but I’m giving a look for the offensive line when we’re doing individual,” Campos said. “I’m trying to help them get as good as they can be. When I’m the scout team offense, I’m going against the starting d-line and I’m trying to emulate a little bit of what the tackle they’re going against that week is going to do.
“It’s just all about getting out there and putting your best foot forward, try to put good tape for you and help the other guys get better too.”
With Irving’s departure, Campos realizes he’s now the only ISU product with the Cowboys, something he admits is a big responsibility, but one he welcomes.
“(I have) great Iowa State pride. That (current) team is the tightest that I’ve ever seen an Iowa State football team,” Campos said. “They’re all bought in. They’d do anything for each other. I think that’s what really separates them in college football right now, is those guys would die for each other. They’re ready to go out there and do the best they can.”