AMES — Being a student athlete is difficult enough in a normal year, balancing school and athletics.
The year 2020 has introduced a pandemic to the mix.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa State University adjusted its academic calendar so the semester ends before Thanksgiving. That means the end of the academic semester overlaps with the Cyclones’ final football games of the season, something teams haven’t had to deal with before.
Normally, finals are during the time in between the last game of the regular season and a bowl game, but now finals are during the most important part of the regular season.
Tight end Charlie Kolar, a mechanical engineering major, actually had a final in Biomaterials scheduled for Saturday, but seeing as that’s when Iowa State hosts Kansas State, he was able to get it rescheduled for Monday.
“I think it’s a really unique challenge,” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said. “And not only do you have finals, you’ve got Thanksgiving, you’ve got the end of what would be for a lot of guys — these last nine months has been challenging and not just for them, but certainly at home for their families. And I just think that there’s a lot on the plate of our young 18 to 22-year-olds.”
Iowa State had a bye last week and began planning on how the players would handle everything.
“How do you not get lost in some of the unique challenges that are out there?” Campbell said. “Well, I think you have to be proactive rather than reactive and one thing that I am really proud of (with) our team — and I think we had a really good plan — is using the time over the last two weeks to really get ahead academically and really put ourselves in a position to navigate what the next 2 1/2 to three weeks can look like. We were able to spread those stressors out in terms of not getting overwhelmed.”
Quarterback Brock Purdy, a communications major, had a lot of papers due as finals. He said he already has those out of the way so he can solely focus on football and the last few weeks of the season.
Anthony Johnson growing in consistency
No player in college football has done as good of a job on Oklahoma State star receiver Tylan Wallace as Iowa State cornerback Anthony Johnson.
Johnson held Wallace to just five receptions for 76 yards, both season lows.
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But that’s not what’s impressed Campbell. Campbell’s been impressed by Johnson’s consistency as the season has gone on.
“I think Anthony is a young man that has really continued to grow from game one of this season to really where he is in game seven,” Campbell said. “In the first pod I thought was a little inconsistent. I think (in) pod two, there was a lot of consistency in his play — you saw him really get better every game and start to play really good football. And what I’ve talked about with him — and I think the next challenge is, ‘Man, can you be that guy consistently now through this last pod?’
“I really think Anthony’s on an incredible trajectory of where he’s going, what it looks like in the consistency he’s playing football with. And Anthony’s another one of those guys in our program that he’s a relentless worker. He’s a perfectionist.”
Injury and COVID-19 update
Campbell was asked during Monday’s teleconference how many Iowa State players were out with COVID-19. He said the Cyclones are “100-percent healthy.”
On the flip side, Kansas State coach Chris Klieman continues to reiterate that numbers are low at practice and they’ll need a good week of testing to be able to play the Cyclones this week.
“We are just down so many guys at certain spots that we can’t even move people,” Klieman said. “I’m just knocking on wood that we get good results here this week.”
On the injury front, Campbell said offensive lineman Trevor Downing and receiver Tarique Milton are still on track to be back by the end of the season.
“That’s the trajectory that both guys are on,” Campbell said. “It’s been tough on those guys but I’m really proud of how both of those guys have handled adverse situations and have continued to progress and better themselves. Both guys, when they get back, will be the best versions of themselves when this football team gets them back at some point.”
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