AMES — Iowa State’s football team is in its fourth week of workouts and all 106 players who have been invited back are practicing.
Coach Matt Campbell, his staff and the system that was put in place was tested early when three players tested positive for COVID-19 upon their arrival in Ames. They’ve since been cleared and it’s been smooth sailing so far thanks to the leadership from the coaches, as well as the veteran players on the team.
“I really couldn’t be prouder of how our kids have approached and handled coming back to campus,” Campbell said Thursday during a Zoom news conference. “I thought our kids have done an unbelievable job of coming back and adjusting to maybe a different set of training than maybe what they’re used to. I’m really proud of our strength staff and how we went about our business and obviously our athletic training staff in providing a really safe environment for our football team to come back and be able to begin training.
“I thought the sacrifice that our kids have made both in house and outside of football has allowed us to train all 106 of our football players.”
Iowa State is following what has become the standard guidelines for COVID-19 prevention — face masks when in public, washing hands regularly, social distancing and staying out of social situations where you don’t know everyone and what they’ve been doing.
“We’ve had education on what will put us in a situation where we’re not able to train,” Campbell said. “And those are life choices that in the 22 hours they’re not in the facility that they’re going to have to decide to make.
“That’s easy to say that. That’s really hard to do that. We’re dealing with 18-to-22-year-old young people that are continuing to grow day in and day out. So I think continuing to have a relationship with our players, staying engaged with them outside of the football field, and then continuing to educate them on what it’s going to take to be able to continue to prepare for our football season.”
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Campbell credits the leadership on Iowa State’s team for holding everyone accountable, especially the young players who are either new or are just one year into the program.
Junior quarterback Brock Purdy, who was a captain as a sophomore, has taken the bull by the horns.
“Really what it comes down to is why we’re here and that’s to play football and have a season,” Purdy said. “We just keep telling the younger guys, ‘We have all these older guys who have put in all of this work for four or five years that are seniors or juniors and for a younger guy to go out and get it from somebody random on campus — that’s just a selfish move.’
“We’re trying to preach unselfishness and serving the guys who have been here and who have put in the work. That’s not knocking the young guys at all, we’re just trying to emphasize how important it is to stay healthy yourself and not put anyone else on the team in a dangerous situation by getting it during the season and then having to sit out two games.”
To the young players’ credit, they’ve done a good job so far.
“The older guys have done a great job delivering that message and the younger guys are doing a great job of listening and doing their part,” Purdy said. It’ll be a challenge when school starts and students come back on campus but I think we’ll go about it the right way.”
Classes restarting could be the monkey wrench that gets thrown in this whole thing.
Campbell talked about the football team creating its own “tight-knit bubble” where players only interact with teammates and don’t needlessly get into situations and places where they don’t know everybody.
That will be impossible when school starts back up.
Right now, Purdy and the rest of his teammates are taking online classes. The players have just begun having those conversations, but having online-only classes for the fall semester for the football team is on the table.
“Being student-athletes with classes on campus is going to be interesting for sure, especially because you can’t control every single student and where they’re going to be on the weekends or outside of school,” Purdy said. “Students obviously have the right to come back to class and everything, I just hope they do their part when it comes to social distancing and wearing a mask.
“I’m sure Coach Campbell is going to have a great plan for us when we go back to make sure school is still first and to make sure we’re still getting good grades. We’re still in summer school right now and that’s all online and maybe we’ll continue doing online in the fall — we don’t know the answer to that yet.”
Campbell was asked if he would put any extra measures in place to protect star players like Purdy.
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“For us, it’s about ‘how do we keep our whole team safe? How do we put them in the best situation to be available?’ All of our players want to play,” Campbell said. “Obviously Brock is important but so is Trevor Downing and so is Enyi Uwazurike.
“Every kid in our program is important.”