AMES — Coaching and teaching are very similar professions. Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell recognizes that.
But instead of teaching a class of 30, he’s teaching a group of more than 100.
“I love it all,” Campbell said. “I think that’s what’s really fun about my job. How does each player tick? Not every kid learns, is coached or can handle coaching the same way. That’s what we do. I think that’s what every high school teacher in America is trying to do. Engage and understand how their student learns and allows them to be the best learner they can in the classroom.”
The example brought up during media day on Tuesday was Campbell and defensive end Ja’Quan Bailey on the first day of fall camp. While the team was stretching, Campbell and Bailey were trash talking back and forth and ribbing each other. Campbell has taken good-natured jabs at Bailey in the past.
Earlier in the fall, Campbell said he makes the roommate pairings for fall camp, which is one of his favorite things because he can put together guys who might not otherwise connect. He was asked who his favorite pairing was. He said, with a laugh, that whoever got paired with either of the Bailey twins got the short end of the stick.
On the other end of the spectrum, quarterback Kyle Kempt was serious and stoic during the stretches. Campbell knows he’s not going to take fun trash talk the same way Bailey does.
“(Players) learn in different ways,” Campbell said. “But you cut them open, and they’re the same kid. They have worlds of potential. That’s one of the favorite things about my job — every young man is different. How do I challenge them to be the best versions they can be?”
Brian Peavy and D’Andre Payne have had very productive careers at Iowa State. Peavy leads all active NCAA players in passes defended with 35 and Payne recorded 48 tackles and an interception last season.
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“Both Brian and D’Andre have given way more of themselves than they’ve taken from the program,” Campbell said.
Mississippi/junior college transfer safety Greg Eisworth, who is a former high school quarterback, also has become a leader.
Campbell said he likes players who were high school quarterbacks because they bring a special leadership ability.
“He’s a communicator and he’s a leader,” Campbell said. “He brings an anchor.
“It used to be the linebackers that were the great communicators — they were getting everybody situated. The game has spread out so much, it’s those safeties that have to be elite communicators.”
Bryce Meeker and Julian Good-Jones have an opportunity at Iowa State to change the culture along the offensive line.
Last season, running back David Montgomery had to make his own holes, but with the senior leadership of Meeker and Good-Jones, the line has the opportunity to open real holes for the star running back.
“Those two have a very unique opportunity, in my opinion,” Campbell said. “When I challenge the offensive line, it starts with those two. My reasoning for that is those two have played football — whether they should’ve or not — early in their career. They were the ones that at least had the talent to do it. One of the hard parts about the early part of their career is there wasn’t much around them to challenge them to be the best versions they could be.
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“Those two have an amazing opportunity to lead this program and look back in two years and say, ‘Look what we did. We changed the culture of what it means to play O-line at Iowa State.’ They’re young men that do care. They’re working really hard. I think it’ll be a really powerful moment if they’re able to make that change because they’ll have done it without leadership in front of them to show them how.”
After the tornado struck Marshalltown, the Iowa State football team headed over to help clean up.
“We had a team activity that Saturday morning that we were going to do,” Campbell said. “Talking with some of our leadership team, this was a no brainer. You never know because these freshmen had just gotten here. But that’s when I knew, no matter what happens this season, we have a really good group of kids.
“That doesn’t give you anything, it doesn’t give you wins or losses. But what it does give you, it does give you a chance. I watched those kids work and I watched those kids give back and interact. What’s important is for us as coaches to understand, that they need to grow not just as football players, but as young men.”
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