AMES — Iowa State has had an influx of players from the eastern part of the state, specifically the Cedar Rapids area in recent years, which is historically Hawkeye country.
It started with offensive linemen Julian Good-Jones and Bryce Meeker.
The Cyclones have six Cedar Rapids-area players on their roster and four should have a significant role on the team this fall — receiver Landen Akers, Good-Jones, Meeker and linebacker O’Rien Vance.
Good-Jones grew up a Hawkeye fan, but the Cyclones gave him his first offer and recruited him hard. It was easy for him to switch allegiances.
“I was actually born in Iowa City and moved to Cedar Rapids in third grade,” Good-Jones said Tuesday during Iowa State’s football media day. “Once recruiting came around, you had to put those feelings to the side and you had to make the best decision for yourself. I feel like I did that.”
Meeker’s family had split allegiances, so he didn’t have to put aside any fandom when recruiting came around.
Those two committed under former Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, but Campbell and his staff also recognize the talent the area has to offer.
Campbell said having Meeker and Good-Jones has helped him tremendously on the recruiting trail. He said a coach is always going to talk up a school, but a player is going to be honest with their friends from their former school or area.
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“When you have a player that’s having a great experience — 18-22-year-old kids, they’re not lying,” Campbell said.
Good-Jones and Meeker were instrumental in getting Landen Akers on the team. Akers played AAU basketball with Meeker in eighth grade, and Good-Jones and Akers went to middle school and high school together and were good friends.
“I knew the talent that (Landen) had,” Good-Jones said. “I don’t know if he got to showcase it in high school. I knew how fast he was, how high he could jump — right now, he has the highest vertical on the team. He’s been a buddy of mine since middle school. I was really pulling hard for him.”
Campbell likes what he’s seeing from Akers, a redshirt sophomore.
“Football is really important to Landen Akers,” Campbell said. “He has something we can’t coach and that’s high-end speed. One of the things that’s been really fun for him is watching him gain the confidence of playing the receiver position. Now, not just be a fast guy, but be a fast guy that is a really good wide receiver.”
Good-Jones and Akers were instrumental in landing Vance, a redshirt freshman who has put himself in position to play a significant role for the Cyclones at middle linebacker. They were all teammates at Cedar Rapids Washington.
“After seeing Julian and Landen come here, I thought about it,” Vance said. “I thought it might be a nice place. Then I came up here and visited and I saw how nice of a place it was and I was just like, ‘I have to be here.’”
Vance said Good-Jones and Akers are like older brothers to him.
“Back in high school, they were always around and I always talked to them,” Vance said. “There was a family feeling to it.”
Cedar Rapids Washington offensive lineman Gary Alt and Kennedy defensive back Nick Duehr also are on the team. Washington has four former players wearing cardinal and gold. Meeker, a former Prairie player, is feeling a little lonely.
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“Me, Julian and Landen were all pretty tight in high school,” Meeker said. “They had a strong connection with the Washington kids, especially O’Rien. I’m trying to pull for Prairie, but we’ll see what we can get this year.”
Campbell said from Day 1 his recruiting strategy is to start in the state of Iowa, and move out from there. Cedar Rapids has become a fertile ground for the third-year coach.
“I think we showed there is a gateway from Cedar Rapids to Iowa State,” Meeker said. “The coaches definitely see the talent that’s in Cedar Rapids and they’re taking advantage of it.”
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