AMES — You’re not promised your hopes and dreams.
That’s something Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell tells his players. It’s not an inspiring quote, it’s not motivational and it doesn’t fill a person with pride.
But it’s the reality.
And it was the reality for sixth-year quarterback Kyle Kempt.
Kempt burst on the scene last season for Iowa State when he was thrust into the starting quarterback role against No. 3 Oklahoma.
Kempt led Iowa State to an 8-5 season capped off with a Liberty Bowl win. Hope for the 2018 season surrounded him and the Iowa State program when he was granted a sixth year of eligibility.
Then, in Iowa State’s first game that counted, Kempt injured his knee.
The Massilion, Ohio, native was asked extensively about his knee, his recovery, his current role on the team and his future as a coach Tuesday during No. 24 Iowa State’s media availability. Kempt is historically soft spoken and direct with the media, often not giving an answer that’s more than one or two sentences. On Tuesday, however, he had a different tone — a reflective one. He also had no problem talking about his future.
“It’s hard to put into words, honestly,” Kempt said. “To go through what I did last year and then to get the sixth year and there is a lot of hype coming into the season with it being my first season as a starter, then all of the sudden, you’re out in a big rivalry game and we lose the game. That’s still been on my mind.
“That’s one thing Coach Campbell has talked about — we’re not promised our hopes and dreams. At the end of the day, I have to control what I can, and I think everything that I’ve been through up to this point has helped me to do that. I was voted a captain, I’ve been here forever, these guys look to me to be a leader. What can I do to help this team out?”
The first thing he did was take true freshman quarterback Brock Purdy under his wing even more than he already had. Since the beginning of fall camp, Kempt pulled aside Purdy and fellow true freshman Re-al Mitchell after a drill and peppered them with questions about what they saw and why they made the throw they did.
But that role increased even more since the injury.
“I know I said this two weeks ago and I think the greatest story in our football program is Kyle Kempt,” Campbell said. “It’s really simple from our end. Who he is, what he’s been — maybe the best captain that I’ve ever been around in terms of putting the team first. It’s been a really tough situation for Kyle. You get injured. A tough injury to come back from. Working to get himself back to 100 percent and you could either sulk about it, be disappointed about it, but all Kyle did was pour himself into Brock.
“I think the greatest thing that I’ve seen is that leadership and ownership in team. Brock would tell you, Kyle’s as important to his success as anybody. We’re really fortunate to have a leader like that in our football program. Kyle’s been nothing short of exceptional for us.”
Kempt didn’t get a timetable for his return from his injury. He said that was by far the most difficult part of the injury because there were weeks where he said he made no progress.
So to distract himself from the recovery process, he turned to coaching the young quarterbacks.
“I always brought them in to watch film with me, I was always coaching them up on the practice field,” Kempt said. “But now, I had more time because I wasn’t out there practicing. So instead of me taking all of the reps, they’re taking the reps. So, every time they come out, I’m coaching them up on what they’ve been seeing and really a lot of extra film time with them.”
Iowa State quarterbacks coach is Joel Gordon, but with Kempt, Iowa State essentially has two quarterbacks coaches, it’s just that one is still in school, so Campbell is saving the university a couple hundred thousand dollars.
Campbell has talked about his desire to bring Kempt on as a full-time coach. Kempt shares the same desire.
“It’s something I’ve put a lot of thought into,” Kempt said. “I’d love to be here. I have talked with him about that. For me, it’d be awesome to stay here and help Iowa State in any way I can.”
That’s in the future, though. For now, Kempt wants to help Iowa State in any way he can. Last week, running back David Montgomery praised Kempt and his ability to prepare like he’s still the starter even though a true freshman took his spot.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“I’m happy with what (my career) has been,” said Kempt, who started his career at Oregon State before transferring to Hutchison Community College; he didn’t play at either school before walking on at Iowa State. “I don’t think it’s over, there is a lot of season left. I don’t know if I’ll play — I understand that completely. The biggest thing for me is I was able to come back and I was able to get to this point (where I’m able to play) again and be a big influence on this team. That’s the big thing for me — even if it’s not on the field, I want to help this program as much as possible. I want my influence to be felt for years to come. For the quarterbacks and the rest of the team, I want to be that leader. That’s been really important to me.”
Kempt spent most of Tuesday reflecting on his football career — but it seems clear his career is just beginning.
“I love this team very much and I love the coaches on our staff,” he said. “What Iowa State means to me is something I can’t really put into words.”
l Comments: email@example.com