Cyclones To Sport State Flags On Helmets

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AMES, Iowa – Iowa State Director of Football Operations Greg “Skip” Brabenec was watching a Nebraska football game last season and he noticed something different adorned on the Husker helmets.

Each player had three numerical digits on their helmets. Brabenec quickly figured out what the numbers stood for their local area code and he thought it was a brilliant idea.

Players represent a team, but they also have pride where they come from.

Brabenec met with Head Coach Matt Campbell and the decision was made to implement this same concept for the Cyclones, but they wanted to do it in a different approach.

The two brainstormed, tossed around a couple of ideas, and finally came up with the perfect solution.

What about having a state flag sticker on the back of each player’s helmet during the 2019 season?

Brabenec couldn’t wait to tell the team.

“They were all excited,” Brabenec said. “We are a family here at Iowa State, but our kids are also close to their families back home. We just thought it was a great way for the players to show off where they grew up.”

Campbell has always emphasized this is a player-driven program. It’s another way to prove it.

“I think this offseason as a team and staff we took a dive into, ‘who are we outside of football?’” Campbell said. “One of those things that came up during those discussions is young people sharing their story. We wanted to find ways for our guys to represent and take great pride on where they come from. It’s going to be fun to see those stickers on gameday.”

The Cyclone roster is filled with players from 18 different states. When you watch an Iowa State game this season, you will see flags from Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.

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A total of 43 current Cyclones hail from the state of Iowa.

Senior All-Big 12 linebacker Marcel Spears is from Olathe, Kan. He’s proud of his roots and loved the idea.

“We are Iowa State. We are a team,” Spears said. “However, being able to put your home state on the helmet and have your people back home understand that you are repping the state well means a lot.”

Besides state flags, Cyclone fans will also notice flags from six other nations on the back of the helmets.

Matt Leo and Corey Dunn are from Australia, but Campbell allowed players to choose flags from nations where their ancestors were originally from.

For example, Arnold Azunna, Kene Nwangwu and Enyi Uwazurike have the Nigerian flag on their helmets. You will see a Liberian flag on the helmets for Eddie Ogamba and Answer Gaye. Joe Rivera’s family heritage is linked to Puerto Rico and Kym-Mani King is from Jamaica. Senior All-Big 12 defensive lineman Ray Lima will represent Somoa.

Nwangwu, who was raised in Texas, wanted to honor his family’s Nigerian heritage. It was an easy decision for the junior running back/kickoff returner to make.

“I think it is really cool to get the opportunity to express our heritage,” Nwangwu said. “I take great pride in having a Nigerian heritage. My parents came from there and I take a lot of pride in that.”

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Doubles Duo Since Day One

Maty Cancini (left) and Annabella Bonadonna (right) have been teaming up since their childhood in Venezuela.

By Andy Stubblefield, ISU Athletics Communications

As Annabella Bonadonna stands close to the net, she lets a ball from her opponent get past her. Not because she can’t reach it, but because she knows her teammate has her back. Maty Cancini rockets home a doubles point that lands just inside the line and she shares an emphatic high five and a smile with her partner.

How did Bonadonna know Cancini would be there? It’s just always been that way.

Both Cyclones hail from the northern portion of Venezuela, not far from the coast of the Caribbean Sea, and have played tennis together since they were 10 years old. Despite their hometowns residing about two hours apart, the duo formed an inseparable bond.

Cancini and Bonadonna linked up for the first time at the South American, a tournament featuring three boys and three girls from ten countries on the continent.

“We were representing our country and they put us to play together,” Cancini said. “After that tournament, we liked it so much we started playing together all the time.”

For years, the two wreaked havoc on doubles duos across the country, often playing against pairs above their age division just to play competition on the same level as they were.

“We were playing against a pair that was really good and much older than us and they thought they would beat us super easy,” Cancini said. “We won the first set, but lost the second set. We went to a third set and we ended up winning.”

“Their coach got so upset because he couldn’t believe it that he walked back from the courts to the hotel. It was dark and Venezuela can be pretty dangerous, but he just couldn’t believe it.”

That duo was the first seed in the tournament and hailed from the same Caracas tennis club Bonadonna played at growing up, The Federation.

“He was also my coach because we were from the same academy, so he shouldn’t have gotten that mad, but he did,” Bonadonna said.

When tournaments were played near Valencia, Cancini’s hometown, Bonadonna would spend the night with the Cancini family. When tournaments were played near Caracas, the Bonadonna family would return the favor.

The power of sports brought two families, from two different cities, together.

“After tournaments we would vacation together at the beach, and our moms became very good friends,” Cancini said. “[Bonadonna] became very close with my brother, as well.”

“We are all one family,” Bonadonna added.

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Being a year older than Cancini, Bonadonna was the first to make the 2,692 mile move from Venezuela to Ames to play tennis at Iowa State. Not only was she going to have to play with a new doubles partner, an entire new set of challenges awaited her.

On top of all the commitments of adjusting to life as a student-athlete, Bonadonna had to overcome a language barrier and adjust to a new culture.

“For that first year, I was kind of lost,” Bonadonna said. “One of the biggest challenges for me was the culture. In Latin-America you are super loud, you’re more outgoing. But here, everyone is more quiet and reserved.”

A year later, when Cancini committed to Iowa State, Bonadonna was ecstatic that she was going to be reunited with her best friend. Coming to America, Cancini also struggled adapting to a new culture.

“If you’re at the library, sometimes you don’t realize that you’re talking loud,” Cancini said. “You don’t want to be rude, but at the same time, I didn’t know that I was doing it. That part was hard.”

Unlike Bonadonna, Cancini had someone to lean on and the strength of their relationship only deepened during their time in Ames.

“[Bonadonna] was basically like my guide here,” Cancini said. “I would ask Bella for everything. She could tell me what to do, where to go. Anything could happen and I know she’s was going to be there for me.”

“She’s my family here,” Bonadonna said. “She’s the one person that I can be closer to because my family is back home. She makes me feel safe and home.”

Ames has always been a safe haven for the two. The community welcomed the pair with open arms and made the adjustment to life away from home all the easier.

“I always felt really welcome here in Iowa,” Cancini said. “Sometimes when you go to different states, if they see you’re international they try to make it harder. I felt like everyone here always tried to help me and that was really cool. I’m very happy that I came to Iowa State.”

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On the tennis courts, the South American duo is working to right the ship that is the Iowa State tennis program, and the two are certainly making an impact.

“I don’t think we could have done many of the things we’ve done this year without their leadership,” head coach Boomer Saia said. “They do a good job of leading by example, especially when we’re out there competing.”

This is Cancini and Bonadonna’s third season at Iowa State together, but it is the first time the two are doubles partners while wearing the Cardinal and Gold. The move was obvious for Saia, a first-year head coach for the Cyclones.

“They both have natural abilities in doubles,” Saia said. “They played together growing up so they know instinctively the way they move together on the court. They are comfortable with one another and they compliment each other very well.”

The move quickly paid off for the Cyclones as the duo raced out to a 16-4 doubles record to begin their season. The hot start included a streak where the pair won five straight matches.

Cancini and Bonadonna have lead the charge to change the culture of the Cyclone tennis program with their individual play, as well.

Bonadonna currently has a 156-84 career record for the Cyclones and sits in second on Iowa State’s overall career wins list. Not only is the senior closing in on the record, she has the fewest losses of anyone in the top 15. Kathy Reising sits atop the list, just two wins ahead of Bonadonna.

Cancini made Iowa State tennis history after she advanced to the quarterfinals of ITA Regionals in October, the farthest a Cyclone has ever made it in the tournament. The junior’s run included a victory over then-ranked No. 73 Marina Guinart of Oklahoma State in the round of 32.

The effort earned Cancini the highest ranking in school history, claiming the No. 74 spot in the final fall ITA Rankings.

Both Venezuelans have cemented themselves in Cyclone Tennis history, but hope to be remembered for much more than that.

“I hope be a role model for the team,” Cancini said. “Show them how to fight when it might not be easy or when you face some adversity. You have to keep fighting when things aren’t going well, and that’s how you begin to change the culture.”

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ISU Graduate John Akers Now An USBWA Hall-of-Famer

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John Akers has always felt like his life in sports journalism resembled Forrest Gump.

Wherever he goes, or wherever life has taken him, he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.

Sure, luck has played a part in Akers’ career. However, the Dows, Iowa native and Iowa State University graduate didn’t receive his latest honor as an United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Hall-of-Famer on pure fortune.

He earned the highest honor in his profession through 40 years of hard work, talent and persistence.

Now in his 18th year as the publisher/editor of Basketball Times, Akers will be at the 2019 Final Four in Minneapolis watching the sport he loves and accepting the ultimate award given to him by his peers.

“I went through the roof when I found out,” Akers said. “It is a tremendous honor. I don’t know how to describe it, but I am very excited.”

Akers always loved sports. Growing up in Dows as a youngster, Akers would routinely write colleges to request their latest media guides. He fell in love with the bios and statistics of the athletes, memorizing their accolades.

“Somewhere along the line I figured out if you wrote to sports information directors or professional franchises to their PR department, they would send me their leftover media guides,” Akers remembered. “I don’t know how I found their addresses, but I did.”

This fascination continued when he arrived at Iowa State in 1977 after transferring from Buena Vista College. He saw an article that the Cyclones just hired a new sports publicity director named Tom Starr.

He contacted Starr and asked him if he needed any student help in the Iowa State Sports Information Department. SID shops were smaller back then, and Starr put him to work.

Akers dove in to his new volunteer job, writing stories on Cyclone athletes for their local newspapers, providing the PA for JV hoops games and rubbing elbows with the local media.

“I saw this story about Tom Starr being hired at Iowa State and I thought, ‘Man, that would be a pretty cool thing.’” Akers said. “I went over and asked if they used any student interns. That exposed me to the world of sports writers and it allowed me to figure out who was who amongst sports writers. I was getting to know the Don Doxies and the Rick Browns, and I was figuring out who was who in Iowa sports journalism. That was extremely helpful and I really got hooked. That’s kind of how it all got started.”

His networking helped him earn a part-time job with the Ames Tribune, where he eventually was hired full-time after graduating from Iowa State in 1979.

“I was taking a journalism 201 course and my first instructor was a woman named Margaret Epperheimer,” Akers recollected. “She knew I was working in the SID office and she told me her husband, John, was the managing editor of the Ames Tribune and they were looking for Friday night help all the time. Gary Richards, who was the sports editor at the time, hired me to do Friday night stuff and I guess I did ok because they started giving me some bigger assignments and left enough of an impression that they eventually hired me.”

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John Akers watching the action at an Iowa State basketball game in Hilton Coliseum in the early 1980s.

It was a transitional period in Iowa State athletics. Legendary football coach Earle Bruce had just left for Ohio State and was replaced by Donnie Duncan. Lynn Nance was still patrolling the sideline in Hilton Coliseum, but his tenure was about to end.

Little did Akers know that things were about to change for Cyclone men’s basketball. The college basketball world was turned upside down when Johnny Orr, who coached Michigan to the national championship game in 1976, left his comfortable job with the Wolverines to take over a struggling Cyclone program.

Akers had a front row seat in those early Orr years. The product on the court still wasn’t great, but Orr made it fun, and he knew the tide was turning.

“There was just so much buzz and energy about it even though they were still kind of bad for those first few years,” Akers said. “Everyone was willing to forgive it because it was Johnny and he was entertaining.  Everybody could see that there was a future there. We would attend the Cyclone meetings/outings every Tuesday at the Best Western, which was a nice hotel in town at the time. We found out what Johnny said was funny in the way he delivered it, but it didn’t always translate to print all that well. You have this hilarious guy, but it was a challenge to convey the humor in print. Some of the stuff he would say, I was thinking about this the other day, you probably couldn’t use today.”

The colorful Orr was always the life of the party. Some of Akers’ favorite memories in the profession were covering the Hall-of-Fame coach, where there was never a dull moment.

“There was a preseason media day and Johnny was asked about Ron Falenschek, who was a big center for the Cyclones,” Akers said. “One reporter asked Johnny where Ron’s weight was at, and Johnny said, ‘Well, it’s in his ass.’”

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A John Akers story from the 1982 Big Eight men’s basketball media day, courtesy of the Ames Tribune.  

Akers also helped Orr land one the nation’s top recruits.

“I remember one time they were going after a kid named John Culbertson out of Chicago,” Akers said. “I happened to call Culbertson to see how the recruiting process was going. He said he was going to Iowa State. I said, ‘Oh, this is news,’ so I called Johnny, and it was news to Johnny, too. Johnny said, ‘He said that? Put it in the paper! Put in the paper, man!’”

Some of Akers’ favorite Cyclone athletes he covered were Andrew Parker, Alex Giffords, Jeff Hornacek and Barry Stevens.

Hornacek was a Cinderella story in the making, and Akers had a hunch he was special right away.

“Hornacek came in and he made quite an impression on all of us,” Akers remembered. “The Des Moines Register rotated writers and I remember for about four games straight the different writers discovered Hornacek. His talent was noticeable to all of us covering him on a daily basis.”

On one occasion, Akers was in the Cyclone dressing room prior to the game. On each of the players’ lockers, there was an inspirational note from the coaching staff placed for positive reinforcement.

He noticed a difference in the players’ inspirational messages.

“All the players had little notes on their lockers and Hornacek’s note was very detailed with all these different things to watch for in the game,” Akers said. “I then read Barry’s note and all it said was, ‘go for it.’ It was perfect for both of those guys, not to say Barry wasn’t cerebral at all. Barry was one of my all-time favorites, but he was a guy who played on emotion.”

Akers loved watching Stevens play. Stevens was a smooth-shooting gazelle on the court who could out-gun and out-run anybody.

He thinks back on a critical game in ISU history when the Cyclones defeated Iowa, 76-72 in double overtime during the 1983-84 season.

It was right on the cusp of “Hilton Magic.” The sound was deafening.

“The decibel level was so loud it almost hurt,” Akers said. “I remember Barry fouled out of that game and I remember his emotion. It wasn’t out of protest or whatever, but he when got his fifth foul he started hopping. He bounced to this incredible height as he hopped in frustration and we had a photo of him where he was so far off the ground. We were going to run the photo and one of our publishers didn’t want us to because he thought it was in bad taste like we were showing up this player or something. We had two publishers and one publisher talked the other one into allowing us to run it.”

Covering those early Orr teams was special. The program was gaining momentum and Akers was witnessing history. However, Akers decided to make a move professionally after five years with the Ames Tribune, so he headed out west to join the sports staff at the San Jose Mercury News, a job he held from 1984-2000.

Iowa State finally got over the hump and made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 41 years during the 1984-85 season. Akers wasn’t around to see it, but he wrote Orr a letter to wish him congratulations.

In typical Orr fashion, Akers received a note back from the Hall of Fame coach.

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John,

Thanks for your note. You would love the games now. The Coliseum is sold out and we are no longer the underdogs. We are expected to win most of the time. We did have a fun year and next year promises more of the same. How about the NCAA? We miss you.

Sincerely,

Johnny

It was tough for Akers to leave his roots in Iowa, but it was also great time to be in the Bay Area as a college hoops writer. Akers covered Jason Kidd at California, Steve Nash at Santa Clara and witnessed the rise of Stanford basketball.

Another case of being in the right place at the right time.

“The Bay Area was going through a heyday,” said Akers. “I think it was around 1992 when Steve Nash arrives. I covered Nash and then Jason Kidd arrives at Cal. I covered them and then I took on the Stanford beat and they started to become one of the nation’s best teams. I got to ride that wave.”

In 2000, Akers’ wife, Ann, got a job with the National Scholastic Press Association in Minneapolis, as the couple moved closer to family in the Midwest.

Akers took a job with the Associated Press and was becoming dissatisfied with the work.

Once again, Forrest Gump came galloping to the rescue.

Ann’s workplace was hosting a convention and one of the guest speakers was legendary sportswriter Bob Ryan. The company needed a mug shot of Ryan, and Akers picked up the phone and called Basketball Times to find one.

He soon learned the organization was without an editor. Basketball Times founder and editor, Larry Donald, started the publication in 1980, making it a hoops junkie bible.

Donald died of an apparent heart attack in November 2000 at the age of 55, leaving his widow, Nanci, in charge of the operation.

Akers was intrigued and excited about another opportunity to dive into the world of basketball, offering his assistance to become the managing editor and publisher of the proud basketball publication, a job he still has today.

Relocating to Charlotte, N.C., Akers travels all around the country writing about hoops. Ryan, Dick “Hoops” Weiss, Wendy Parker and Dick Vitale are contributors for the publication and life is good.

He has cherished every moment working with the best basketball writers in the country and forging relationships with the giants in the coaching profession.

“It’s been great getting to know those guys and work with them,” Akers said. “I’ve been doing this now for eighteen years at Basketball Times and those guys have been doing it longer. I’ve been able to develop some really good friendships with a lot of these legends in basketball.”

It’s humbling for Akers to be considered for the USBWA Hall of Fame. As a former president of the USBWA, Akers instituted the organization’s Rising Star award, which recognizes excellence in a member who is under the age of 30.

This year’s USBWA Hall of Fame class includes Dan Wetzel, Bill Rhoden and Jack McCallum, all luminaries in sports writing. Akers is thrilled to be in the same company.

“When you see the guys that are also being inducted this year, it’s like, wow, I feel like I’m the Harold Baines of the crowd,” Akers joked.

Despite his status in the profession, you can’t take the Cyclone out of him. He still follows Iowa State and tries to watch as many games as he can.

I was the men’s basketball contact for the Iowa State Athletics Communications department from 2000-13. When Fred Hoiberg was hired as the leader of the Cyclone program in 2010, Akers played a huge role in getting The Mayor on the cover of the magazine and wrote a fantastic piece on him.

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Iowa State legend Fred Hoiberg graces the cover of Basketball Times in 2010. 

I found out later he was just giving props to a prodigy he coached as a grade-schooler.

“When I was at the Ames Tribune I coached Fred Hoiberg as a fifth-grader in flag football,” Akers said. “We had Hoiberg at wide receiver. That’s how smart we were.”

Congrats, John. Cyclone Nation is proud of you. That’s all I have to say about that.

 

 

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Shayok Firing On All Cylinders

Anyone associated with the Iowa State men’s basketball program, or anyone that has spent time at the Sukup Basketball Complex for that matter, can tell you about the incredible amount of work Marial Shayok put in during his redshirt season.

Nothing has changed as Shayok continues the grind during his senior season. Despite playing 32.5 minutes per game for the 24th-ranked Cyclones, you are virtually assured to find Shayok hoisting up shots in the morning, right before and immediately after practice each day.

The Cyclones and head coach Steve Prohm had an idea of what to expect from Shayok when he arrived after transferring from Virginia, but the Ottawa, Ontario native has surpassed what anyone could expect.

“You don’t know a guy’s work ethic until they actually get here, but his work ethic is off the charts,” Prohm said. “He’s in (the gym) religiously. I’d put him up there with the Matt Thomas, Naz Long, (Georges) Niang. Guys that are in here and have just an unbelievable desire to get better.

Shot after shot after shot, Shayok works on nearly every possible situation that could occur.

And that diligence to his craft has paid off.

He’s leading the Big 12 in scoring with 19.8 points, while shooting 50.9 percent on field goals, 40 percent behind the arc and 86.1 percent on free throws. He’s leading the Cyclones back toward the top of the Big 12 after a down 2017-18, which saw them miss the postseason for the first time in seven seasons.

Big 12 Leading Scorers

 

 

Nearly two-thirds through the regular season, Shayok has already posted the best point total and rebound total in his career and is on pace to post a season that historically has rarely been matched.

By The Numbers
50-40-85
Since 2009-10, just seven players (nine times) have averaged at least 19 points while shooting at the levels of 50-40-85 like Shayok is currently doing. Only three of those players came from nation’s top-6 conferences, including only Buddy Hield from the Big 12 Conference during his player of the year season.

Fred Hoiberg averaged 20.2 points and shot 53.5 percent from the field, 45 percent behind the arc and 86.4 percent at the line as a junior.

In ISU history, only Fred Hoiberg reached these marks, doing so during his junior season in 1993-94, when the Cyclones were a part of the Big Eight Conference.

Players with 19 ppg at 50-40-85 (since 2009-10)
Doug McDermott (Creighton), 2012-13 & 2013-14
Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), 2015-16
Mike Daum (SDSU), 2016-17
Zeek Woodley (Northwestern State), 2015-16 &2016-17
Shane Gibson (Sacred Heart), 2011-12
Luke Babbitt (Nevada), 2009-10
Jerian Grant (Notre Dame), 2013-14

*Shayok and Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman are the only players nationally at the marks this season. Grant (12 games) and Woodley (14 games in 2016-17) played in less than 50 percent of their team’s games.

Most Points By A Cyclone, First 19 Games (Since 2010-11)
1. Marial Shayok (2018-19), 376
2. Georges Niang (2015-16), 366

Only four Big 12 players have scored more points in the season’s first 19 games (since 2010-11) than Shayok: Frank Mason (2016-17), 382; LaceDarius Dunn (2010-11), 390; Buddy Hield (2015-16), 492; Trae Young (2017-18), 575

15-Point Games (Players In Nation’s Top-6 Conferences)
1. Carsen Edwards (Purdue), 18
2. Marial Shayok (Iowa State), 17
R.J. Barrett (Duke), 17
Markus Howard (Marquette), 17
Myles Powell (Seton Hall), 17

Shayok has been at his best in ISU’s two games against Kansas:
25.0 ppg
5.5 rpg
18-30 FG (60%)
8-13 3FG (61.5%)

Catch Shayok and the Cyclones Saturday at 11 a.m. (CT) on ESPN against Mississippi in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Shayok matched the ISU single-game record going 5-for-5 from behind the arc in ISU’s win against Kansas on Jan. 5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


From the preseason:
Shayok Ready To Lead

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Rookies Build Bond, Become Leaders

Homecoming, TTU, Texas Tech, FB, Football, 2018-19

Iowa State football has had a long list of freshmen with outstanding rookie seasons, and quarterback Brock Purdy and linebacker Mike Rose have emphatically joined that list through their performance on the field in 2018.

What Purdy and Rose did this season was different, however.

Not only did they both become offensive and defensive leaders on the team, they did it as TRUE freshmen.

The dynamic duo didn’t get the benefit of sitting out a season as redshirts to learn their trade. Both entered school in the summer and wasted little time in proving their worth.

“Their leadership, intangibles and work ethic was amazing, and when your best players are your hardest workers then your program has a chance to be really successful,” Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell said. “The foundation starts right there with their work ethic and their commitment to the process. I’m really proud of them and grateful to have those young guys leading the ship for a long time.”

It’s hard to recollect first-year players at Iowa State to make such dramatic impacts, especially a pair in the same season.

Purdy was 7-2 as the Cyclone quarterback, recording the best passing efficiency rating (169.91) by a true freshman in NCAA history while rallying the Cyclones as the signal-caller. He ended the season as the ESPN Big 12 True Freshman of the Year.

Rose started all 13 games, was third on the team in tackles (75) and was named to numerous freshman All-America teams, including First-Team Freshman All-America honors by the FWAA.

When comparing Purdy and Rose’s accomplishments, a few first-year freshmen Cyclones come to mind.

Two-time All-Big 12 selection Allen Lazard was a first-year rookie in 2014. He recorded a very productive season with 45 catches for 593 yards and three touchdowns.

Leonard Johnson was also excellent. In 2008, the future NFLer had 47 tackles, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries in his first season.

Possibly the best comparison to Purdy and Rose is Jason Berryman, who was named the 2003 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year in his first season with the Cyclone program. Berryman was a freshman All-American and led all NCAA rookie defensive linemen with 110 stops that year.

A native of Brecksville, Ohio, Rose was probably the biggest surprise coming out of fall camp. Rose didn’t have many “power 5” offers, but he quickly made his presence known by earning the starting spot at Mike linebacker, replacing All-American Joel Lanning.

“He was kind of a dark horse and came out of nowhere in fall camp. He made the coaches play him,” Campbell said. “From day one, the 10 players around him on defense – they knew it. I credit guys like Ray Lima and Marcel Spears because they’ve been his guiding light – to make sure that he’s the best version of himself every weekend.”

The early success even surprised Rose.

“I told my parents, ‘I’m just going to work hard and get the respect of the older players and the coaches,’” Rose said about his goal heading into fall camp. “I knew of Jake Hummel and how he didn’t redshirt but contributed on special teams. Honestly, that was my goal. I think it was about a week into it and they were like ‘go in with the ones.’ I wasn’t that comfortable with the defense yet. I think they just wanted to see me play and see how I’d react to it. It was nerve-racking but if you would’ve told me a year ago that I’d be in this position, I don’t know if I’d have believed it.”

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Mike Rose celebrates after returning a fumble for a touchdown to help Iowa State overcome a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit vs. Kansas State. 

Rose definitely proved he belonged in his first career game at Iowa, leading the team in tackles with 11. By season’s end, Rose was one of the top rookie defenders nationally, ranking second in tackles for loss (9.0) among NCAA rookies and third nationally among “power 5” freshmen in tackles with 75.

“I feel like I’m a way better player, mostly just fighting off blocks,” Rose said. “A lot of that is just reps. From where I was at the beginning of the season to where I am now, I feel 100 percent more comfortable. The whole linebacker room really helped me out. I feel like at a lot of other schools that probably wouldn’t be the case because it’s competition. It was just awesome.”

Purdy, a native of Gilbert, Ariz., is one of the biggest competitors you will ever meet. A coveted February signee who had offers from Alabama and Texas A&M, even Purdy would tell you he didn’t foresee the season going the way it did.

Where Rose was picked as the starter on opening day, Purdy was third-string.

“From fall camp on, I just wanted to be ready at any point in the season,” Purdy said. “My mentality every single week was as if I was the starter, even though I wasn’t. When my opportunity came, I wanted to make the most of it.”

Indeed he did.

Purdy got his chance at Oklahoma State. The Cyclones were 1-3 at the time and facing the 25th-ranked Cowboys in a pivotal road game.

The rest will live in Cyclone history, as Purdy led the Cyclones to a 48-42 victory with 402 yards of total offense – 318 passing, 84 rushing – with five touchdowns.

“I wasn’t over-thinking anything. I was just acting like it was another high school football game,” Purdy said about his breakout game. “I went out there and I kept it simple and trusted my teammates around me. They helped me out with everything. I’m blessed that it went the way it did.”

Purdy continued to steer the ship. Soon after, the Cyclones rattled off a five-game Big 12 winning streak and ended the season with a school-record six conference triumphs.

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Brock Purdy threw for an Iowa State-bowl-record 315 yards vs. Washington State in the Valero Alamo Bowl. 

Purdy’s poise, leadership and toughness stood out as he matured throughout the season, breaking the all-time NCAA record for best passing efficiency total for a true freshman. Only four freshmen in NCAA history had a better passing efficiency rating than Purdy (Jameis Winston, Sam Bradford, Rudy Carpenter and Michael Vick). All four, however, sat out their first season in college as a redshirt.

“Sometimes with a young player that was having success in practice and continuing to improve every day, there can be a sense of frustration or even a step back,” Campbell said. “But with Brock, there never was. In fact, he turned it up another notch in the detail of his preparation. I think that is what is really special about Brock. It was his commitment to himself and to his craft that made him ready for success. What he’s done has been nothing short of incredible for a freshman.”

Purdy ended the season tying or sharing school records in completion percentage (66.4%), passing efficiency (169.91) and 300-yard passing games (3).

Despite playing virtually nine games, Purdy threw for 2,250 yards (ninth in school history) and 16 touchdown passes (fifth in school history), and rushed for 308 yards and five touchdowns.

The success the rookies achieved this year brought them together. Going through the same circumstances, the two have built a strong bond.

It is comforting for Cyclone fans to know the pair have become close friends, and it sparked in fall camp when Campbell roomed them together.

“They’re really good friends and really close,” Campbell said. “They carry themselves with a sense of maturity I haven’t seen, and I think that’s a credit to their families, their high school football programs and the communities that they come from.”

Purdy knew there was a connection right away.

“The first day we got here we ran together. We clicked right away,” Purdy said. “At fall camp we roomed together and we didn’t know any of this was going to happen, honestly. He holds me accountable for things. I hold him accountable for things. He runs the defense. I run the offense. We got a good thing going.”

Purdy admits he is more reserved and Rose is the outgoing one, “He’s funny. Everybody loves him. Whenever he walks into the room, he’s always smiling. Everybody on the team loves him and he brings an upbeat feeling to everything that we do.”

Rose, however, has to play second fiddle to the star quarterback.

“He’s obviously on a big stage now. Everybody is like, ‘Brock, Brock!’” Rose laughs. “But he keeps it level-headed. He’s done a great job just keeping a lower profile and being the same guy every day.”

Campbell added, “They are certainly good for each other and the fact that they play such demanding positions, yet on different sides of the football, it allows those two to have some commonalities within themselves that really attach them at the hip together.”

We can’t wait for the encore in 2019.

NCAA Leaders In Passing Efficiency
Player                                         Total
Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama)      199.4
Kyler Murray (Oklahoma)       199.2
Will Grier (West Virginia)        175.5
Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State)  174.1
Jake Fromm (Georgia)               171.2
Brock Purdy (Iowa State)     169.9

Most Iowa State QB Wins Over Conference Opponents (Since 1985)
Player                                     Record
Bret Meyer, 2004-07              11-20 (35.5%)
Seneca Wallace, 2001-02      8-8 (50%)
Bret Oberg, 1988-89              7-7 (50%)
Brock Purdy, 2018               6-1 (85.7%)
Alex Espinoza, 1984-86        6-8 (42.8%)
Sage Rosenfels, 1997-2000   6-10 (37.5%)

NCAA Freshman TFL Leaders
Player                                     Total
Zaven Collins (Tulsa)             9.5
Mike Rose (Iowa State)      9.0
Carlton Martial (Troy)           9.0

NCAA Freshman Tackle Leaders (Power 5)
Player                                     Total
Micah Parsons, Penn State    82
Merlin Robertson, Ariz. St.    77
Mike Rose (Iowa State)       75

 

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Harvey, Peavy Trusted The Process

 

Harvey_Peavy_webAMES, Iowa – Senior defensive stalwarts Brian Peavy (CB) and Willie Harvey (LB) will fasten their chinstraps for one of the final times this weekend at MidAmerican Energy Field at Jack Trice Stadium, as 19 Cyclone seniors will be honored for their commitment to the program.

It’s been a long journey for the duo who have been staples in the Iowa State lineup since their freshman seasons in 2015.

With a combined 541 tackles and 83 starts, the Cyclone defense has made an incredible resurgence under their leadership. Their final two seasons have seen the ISU defense ascend to the top of the Big 12 defensive statistical rankings, and both have been key cogs to its success.

Both Peavy and Harvey joined the Cyclone team in 2014 and sat out as redshirts under Paul Rhoads’ staff. Cyclone fans saw a glimpse of the future with both making outstanding contributions as rookies in 2015.

Peavy was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection while leading the team in tackles (82) and Harvey registered 59 tackles.

Riding a wave of success, uncertainty soon followed.

Rhoads was relieved of his duties and the pair would have to start over with an entire new coaching staff and philosophy.

It was a difficult time for both.

“I was really close with Coach Rhoads,” Peavy said. “It was like losing a part of your family with the coaches you trusted leaving, so of course it was difficult, but I don’t think it held me down any or any of the other guys.”

“It was tough at first,” Harvey said about losing the coaching staff that brought him to Ames. “I built relationships with a lot of the coaches. You don’t know where to go as a player, who to look to, and you don’t know where to go and what to expect. That’s a lot of what I dealt with.”

Peavy_Brian18KU_12

Brian Peavy will end his career as a four-time All-Big 12 recipient and is one of the greatest cornerbacks in Iowa State history.

The hiring of Matt Campbell helped calm the waters. The tandem listened to what Campbell was preaching.

Trust the Process.

“To be honest with you, what he was preaching, I honestly didn’t know what it meant,” Peavy joked. “You know, it was kind of just some fancy words to me at the time. What does ‘trust the process’ mean? What does ‘the process’ look like? It took a year until we understood what he meant.”

The results didn’t come overnight, but with the work ethic and leadership of Peavy and Harvey, strides were made every day.

Campbell knew he could trust both in critical situations.

“We leaned on Brian and Willie a lot in that first year,” Campbell said. “They were young veterans and it was crucial for them to buy in. You look back now, we owe a lot to those guys, because they have been two of our most consistent players in the last three years. You talk about the growth of our defense, they are two of the biggest reasons for our success.”

The 2016 season started slow for Iowa State, but the team made vast improvement throughout the season, winning two of its last three games.

This time, Harvey led the team in tackles (78) and Peavy was an honorable mention all-league pick for the second consecutive year.

Heading into fall camp of 2017, Harvey knew something was different with the team. The culture was changing.

“It was definitely noticeable and refreshing,” Harvey remembered. “It is kind of like a 180. You definitely notice something different.”

Homecoming, TTU, Texas Tech, FB, Football, 2018-19

Willie Harvey has 26.5 TFL in his career to rank in ISU’s career top-10.

The team started out 2-2, but then proceeded to shock the college football nation by going 4-0 in October with a pair of victories over top-5 opponents (Oklahoma, TCU).

Iowa State was now a player nationally by appearing in its first College Football Playoff rankings in school history, and both were making significant contributions, especially in ISU’s 14-7 win over No. 5 TCU at home.

The pair forced key fourth quarter turnovers to stop apparent Horned Frog scores, Peavy by interception and Harvey by forced fumble.

When the game ended, the entire Cyclone Nation celebrated on the field.

It is a memory both will never forget.

“I would say it was one of my biggest memories just seeing the excitement of others,” Harvey said. “To celebrate with my teammates and fans, it was really special.”

“That was big time and kind of like a dream come true,” Peavy said. “I always kind of dreamed of college fans rushing the field. Honestly, we have had big games here at Iowa State, but we just were never able to pull out a win. To see that happen, and to see the process actually arrive, it was big for me, the team and fans. That game definitely left a stamp in history for this school.”

The season ended with a victory over No. 19 Memphis in the Liberty Bowl, just the fourth bowl win in school history.

Their legacy is continuing to shine throughout the 2018 campaign.

Victories over top-25 teams are now the norm, racking up two more triumphs against No. 25 Oklahoma State and No. 6 West Virginia, increasing ISU’s two-year win total vs. ranked teams to five.

The 2018 Cyclones were ranked again, thanks to the school’s first-ever five game single-season conference winning streak. Another victory this weekend, and Iowa State will set a new standard for conference wins in a season with six.

The culture has changed and you can see their imprints all over. It’s something they are both extremely proud of.

Harvey will end his career ranking in the top-10 on ISU’s career TFL list. He currently has 26.5.

Peavy remains one of the top cornerbacks in the nation. Teams rarely throw to his side because of his reputation. His career 43 pass breakups is second among active FBS players.

Will emotions be running high for Peavy and Harvey on Saturday? You bet they will. Fall Saturdays in Ames have become a happening thanks to their contributions.

Knowing that the final grains of sand in their hour glass are trickling down, it will be another key opportunity to pay respect to the greatest college football fans in the nation.

“I don’t know, hopefully I can hold it all together,” Harvey admitted. “It will be an emotional day but I’m going to try to hold it all together and just cherish the moment.”

The Cyclones are 14-9 in the last two seasons and heading to another bowl game, but they will look back fondly on much more than the wins when their careers are over.

“I know a lot of guys will say their best moments are off the field, and I would agree,” Peavy said. “My trip to Costa Rica (Soles for Souls) and some of the community service endeavors I did are just as memorable. I will also remember all the hard work my teammates have put in. I will think about a guy like Braxton Lewis through his journey of being a walk on and now a Big 12 candidate. A guy like Marcel Spears, too. I think that will be my favorite memories is just looking around and seeing guys follow their dreams and making them come true.”

Harvey will have similar memories.

“Facing all the adversities and sticking through it, I will always remember that,” Harvey said. “You get tired and you really think your body can’t handle it. But I’m just glad I stuck it out and I’m doing something for the greater good of the organization.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Burkhall Bouncing Back After Summer Health Scare

What was supposed to be a quiet few days off for senior forward Meredith Burkhall took a scary and life-altering turn. While No. 32 is on pace to be back on the court come November, the past two months have brought many physical challenges that have changed her life and perspective heading into the 2018-19 season.

Burkhall had just wrapped up the spring semester and returned to her Urbandale, Iowa home for a much-deserved break for the month of May. Just two days into the break she awoke to find herself unable to walk.

After her mother, Stephanie, rushed home, they went to a chiropractor believing she needed to be readjusted and that it was a back issue. It was clear rather quickly that wasn’t the issue so her mother drove her straight to the emergency room.

“I could barely stand up, my leg felt like it was falling asleep randomly,” Burkhall said of her leg when she arrived at the hospital.

Burkhall would go through hours of tests, and with doctors unable to find anything she was nearly sent home. The Burkhall’s decided it was best to stay at the hospital to continue to look into what was causing her immobility.  Finally, a late-night ultrasound at her parents’ request revealed the issue.

“I got back to the room after the ultrasound and I could barely get back in the bed. There were three people in white coats running into my room saying that I had this massive blood clot and that they needed to treat it immediately because it was heading north towards my lungs and heart,” Burkhall recalled.

She was immediately admitted into the hospital and a surgery was booked for the next morning.

To remove the blood clots, Burkhall was put through an excruciating four-day process where two catheters were inserted into her leg and medicine was injected into her to remove the clots, which took up 80 percent of the veins in her leg and stomach. The process also required a filter to be placed to prevent a clot from traveling to her heart and lungs. The worst part was that she was unable to move for four-straight days, with doctors and nurses entering the room every 10 minutes.

“You can’t move, you have to lay flat, you can’t sit up, you can’t move your arms, move your leg,” Burkhall said. “Everything was just flat. You’re in the Intensive Care Unit and you just can’t get up.”

The doctors had never done this process on someone as young as Burkhall, and she required constant supervision. After six days in the ICU she was moved to a regular room and allowed to walk.  However, complications arose when she began to walk as her heart rate shot into the 170s after taking just a few steps, which is typical of someone on a run. The spike prompted doctors to have to run an electrocardiogram to see what was happening. Fortunately they didn’t find anything, but it meant she would not be able to go home until her heart rate was improved.

Doctors were never quite able to pinpoint the cause of everything, but due to the severity, Burkhall was put on blood thinners for three months. Doctors let her know that had this happened 10 years ago, the consequences could have been more life-altering, with her no longer being allowed to play basketball. However, due to modern technology, Burkhall was given a chance at a full recovery.

In total, she would spend 12 days in the hospital before returning to her parents’ home.

However, she wasn’t out of the woods yet, as she would now have to begin a long recovery process. Upon returning from the hospital she was still unable to move around and was even relegated to a walker for two and a half weeks and crutches for several days after. Her quick turnaround impressed the doctors, who were unsure what to give her for a timetable as most people with this condition never are able to get back to 100 percent. However, given her age and fitness level, and her swift improvement it seemed it would be possible.

Burkhall credits an amazing support system for helping keep her spirits up. Constant texts, snaps and visits from her teammates, coaches and support staff helped her get through the long hospital stay and continual recovery process. Her parents also never left her side, with both spending nearly every night at the hospital. She also had a dedicated team of nurses who spent many hours with her and her family. They became invested in her recovery, and even promised to come to a game this season to see her in action.

As for the future, Burkhall is not yet cleared for contact, but she is able to practice and participate in most workouts. She is optimistic she will be one of the first to make a 100 percent recovery. She has also been cleared to travel with the team for the upcoming trip to Costa Rica, but will not be able to compete in the games. She will also need to wear compression leggings on all flights and during workouts to help with blood flow.

The experience was life changing for Burkhall, who says it gave her a different perspective on life.

“Sometimes when I was laying there I’d be like, ‘this isn’t even about getting back for the season. This is about being healthy in my life,’” she said. “You never know what can just change in a day. Literally in 48 hours I went from having a tight back to emergency surgery. You never know what can happen in the blink of an eye. Do what you want to do every day because you never know what can come in your way or stop you because I did not expect that.”

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