Harger Launches Career At NASA

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AMES, Iowa – Mitchell Harger loves challenges. It’s in his DNA.

When looking at colleges to attend, Harger yearned for a challenge academically and athletically.

His unique confident and competitive nature guided Harger to Iowa State University for the sake of accomplishing two major goals he set out to achieve: Graduate in one of the most demanding majors at the school, aerospace engineering, and make an impact as a walk-on at a “power five” football program.

Harger fulfilled both goals at Iowa State, becoming one of its greatest success stories.

He is not in a position to sit back, relax and rest on his laurels, however. The profession he chose will not allow him that luxury.

Harger works for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a job he accepted a month after the 2016 football season ended. It’s high-stress, dynamic work, but Harger cherishes every day he walks into the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

“It was always kind of a dream that you never thought would be a reality,” Harger said. “I always thought it would be the coolest thing in the world if I could say, ‘Hey, I work for NASA.’ After all the opportunities kind of presented themselves, and things started lining up, I remember stopping to think right around my second interview, ‘holy crap, I’m about to get a position at NASA!’ It is kind of a surreal feeling, especially now that I’m down here.”

The 2012 Alburnett (Iowa) High School class valedictorian has an official title of Extravehicular Activity Flight Controller (EVA) for NASA. Harger’s responsibilities include training astronauts and ensuring the safety of an astronaut’s spacesuit.

He fully understands the importance of his daily duties.

“Whenever the astronaut steps outside the international space station, goes to work on the space station or eventually, the astronaut would land on the moon again, or hopefully on Mars, I’m in charge of their spacesuit,” Harger said. “I’m in charge of everything the astronaut is doing task-wise and I’m basically in charge of their safety out there, because every time an astronaut steps outside in the vacuum of space, the harsh environment of space presents a 1 in 6,000 chance of dying, whether it’s from micrometeoroids hitting them, suit malfunctions, or whatever it may be. It’s a very high intensity, high stress environment.”

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ISU WR coach Bryan Gasser and RB coach Lou Ayeni visit Mitchell Harger at NASA.

Harger could have had a head start on his career like his fellow classmates who graduated in the spring of 2016. He spent four years as a walk-on on the football team and then underwent shoulder surgery after an injury in the 2016 spring game.

He earned his degree. He gave his all for Cyclone football. Time to move on, right?

Not Harger.

He had one more goal to check off.

“Honestly, when I was on the scout team, I knew I would eventually get my chance,” Harger said. “The only time I ever doubted my decision making was after I graduated in aerospace engineering and I decided to come back for that fifth year. It was during fall camp. My shoulder was killing me and I could be starting my career. It kind of dawned on me, ‘Why am I here?’ I then remembered I had unfinished business with the football team and realized I was devoted to the football team. I was going to finish this. My motto was always to finish what you started and that’s how I’m going to be for the rest of my life.”

The decision to attend graduate school and compete for his fifth and final season for the Cyclones ended up being a script Hollywood would covet.

The running back was an outstanding prep football player.

He was the Class 1A Player of the Year in 2011 after rushing for 2,716 yards and 40 touchdowns at tiny Alburnett High School. However, at only 5-10, Harger had only a few offers to continue his football career at the next level.

This didn’t bother Harger, however. He was going to Iowa State, one of the best engineering schools in the nation, and he was determined to score a touchdown for the Cyclones.

Nothing was going to stop him.

The day Harger’s number was called is something dreams are made of, but it didn’t happen overnight.

Harger toiled on ISU’s scout team for four seasons, earning a spot on special teams in his redshirt junior season. He won the Outstanding Walk-On Player Award at the postseason banquet that season.

Harger’s position coach at ISU for three seasons, Lou Ayeni, observed his determination up close.

“Nothing shocks me about Mitchell,” said Ayeni, Iowa State’s Running Game Coordinator and Associate Head Coach. “I watched what he did, how he led our running back room and how he carried himself. There was something special about Mitchell. He’s got it.”

Harger wasn’t shy about letting Ayeni know he could count on him in a game. He would strategically sidle up to Ayeni at practice and games, always in his sightline, displaying bravado and exuding confidence.

“I’ve had guys faster, stronger and bigger, but nobody was more determined than Mitchell,” Ayeni said. “Every practice, every game he would come up to me and say, ‘I’m ready when you need me. I’m ready.’”

On Nov. 12, 2016, Harger was indeed ready.

The Cyclones were in a dogfight with Kansas in Lawrence in a game where both teams were seeking their first Big 12 victory. ISU was down 24-16 late in the third quarter and freshman running back David Montgomery needed a break after taking a hit to his quadricep on the first play of the series.

Looking for a replacement, Ayeni spotted Harger. He sent him in.

Getting the signal, Harger furiously strapped on his helmet and darted onto the field.

His time was now.

“It was kind of like your football life flashing before your eyes,” Harger remembered. “Coach Lou said I was going in and I went on a full sprint out there. I started thinking, ‘Okay, this is what I went through three years of the scout team for. Why I stuck out shoulder surgery and why I decided to come back even though I graduated with an aerospace engineering degree.’”

Harger’s first rush went for 16 yards. His third carry goes for 17 yards. Eleven more yards by Harger, and suddenly the reserve gave ISU first-and-goal at the KU four-yard line.

All Harger envisioned now was the goal line.

Now third-and-goal at the one, it appeared Harger would realize his dream. However, another setback crept in. An illegal shift cost the Cyclones five yards, resulting in a third-and-goal situation from six yards out.

Harger thought his window of opportunity was over. This down and distance is typically a passing situation, and Harger was keenly aware of this fact.

“We finally get down to the four-yard-line and I’ve got the goal line just staring at you,” Harger recollected. “Then we get the penalty and we get pushed back. It just seemed like another punch, another kick that I had to get through.”

Much to Harger’s surprise, however, the next play call was for him. He received the handoff from quarterback Jacob Park and bolted up the middle untouched for a six-yard touchdown scamper.

“They called another running play and finally I got across the goal line,” Harger beamed. “I just felt sudden relief. I said to myself, ‘I did it. I made it. This is for my team. This if for my family and all my friends who supported me.’”

Elation set in. The roar was audible from the press tower.

“To finally get that carry and have it all play in slow-motion and to finally wham it in, it was just an incredible feeling,” Harger said. “I knew I wasn’t going to be stopped.”

Harger had eight carries for 58 yards and a TD in his lone series of action during the game. His score was the impetus for ISU’s 31-24 come-from-behind win over KU.

As he left the field victorious, he found his family in the bleachers and embraced in a group hug that seemed to last an eternity.

You could not find a happier person on Earth.

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Mitchell Harger rejoices with his family after the Kansas game.

Ayeni was just as proud.

“I have coached a long time, but Mitchell’s performance that day was one of the most rewarding and special moments I have ever been associated with,” Ayeni boasted.

Harger is at peace now.

His football career is over and his job is top priority. He takes pride in it. He’s aware he is among a select group of former Iowa State engineering graduates who have made significant contributions to NASA.

Like Steve Bales, who, as a flight controller, is credited with making a critical last-minute decision to not abort and continue procedures for Apollo 11’s lunar landing in 1969.

Harger strives to be in that same situation someday.

“Right now I’m just a flight controller,” Harger said. “I’m eventually going to become an instructor and then eventually, my goal is to get to the control room. That is where all those big shots are. That is the biggest goal right now. I can’t picture a better job out there for me.”

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Harger’s experience competing for the Cyclones has definitely provided him with real-life skills.

“We are graded every day and thrown into stressful situations,” Harger said. “Playing football for five years had me prepared for this. Honestly, it’s a great fit for football players. It’s a lot of high intensity stuff. Every single day there’s something new and something exciting to look at.”

Ayeni visited Harger at NASA and received a tour of the massive complex over spring break. It was a great time for Ayeni and his pupil to reminisce. It also was a great opportunity for Ayeni to reflect on a wonderful success story.

“It is incredible to see how successful Mitchell is and it means a lot to our program,” Ayeni said. “We all know that winning is important, but to watch people like Mitchell reach their full potential in life is just as equally rewarding.”

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Carleton & Co. Take In Ames

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When Chatham, Ontario, Canada native Bridget Carleton committed to Iowa State, the Carleton family was inundated with requests from family and friends to go visit Ames, Iowa to cheer her on.

“We had tons of people from Chatham who were like, ‘Oh if you ever go, we want to go,’” Carrie Carleton, Bridget’s mother, said.

After many trips of packing a van full of friends and family, the Carleton’s decided it was time to do one bigger. They rounded up 35 family and friends from Chatham and Michigan, rented a charter bus and drove down to Ames, Iowa to watch Bridget and the Cyclones take on West Virginia on Feb. 18.

The fan bus left at 4 p.m. on Friday from Canada and drove straight to Davenport, which also happens to be the hometown of head coach Bill Fennelly, to spend the night. The drive was over 10 hours to Ames, but the group had no trouble enjoying the ride. They played plenty of games, including some Iowa State women’s basketball inspired trivia, so everyone was well versed before they arrived at their destination – Hilton Coliseum.

The group was not hard to spot once they arrived. Sitting behind the basket on the home bench side of the court, the Carleton crew donned matching gold t-shirts, which were designed by rider Tim Regan. The t-shirt featured a stencil Iowa State logo surrounded by a maple leaf, the unofficial national symbol of Canada. The back featured a basketball with Carleton’s number “21” on the inside.

“Every bus trip needs a t-shirt,” Carrie stated. “It’s just part of the rules.”

The clan witnessed the Cyclones take on and defeat West Virginia, 68-63. Carleton gave her followers plenty to talk about when they returned north of the border. The sophomore played, tough and inspired basketball, helping guide ISU’s second half run, finishing with 16 points, six rebounds and a career-high-matching four blocked shots.

Following the basketball game, the group then got to see the rest of Bridget Carleton’s home away from home. They saw campus, Ames and the Iowa State basketball facilities. It was a full Cyclone experience.

d8t_7387 “You know what, it really truly reminds me of our own hometown,” Louise Kaniecki, who joined the bus trip after also having visited Ames last season with the Carleton’s, observed. “The old buildings, and the character of the whole place is amazing. And [as far as] Hilton, it’s hard to beat that. For her to be able to play here all the time is amazing. It’s an amazing opportunity for Bridget, and I know she appreciates every single minute that she’s here.”

For the Carleton family, the bus trip marked one of many trips over the last year-and-a-half to Ames. The two have made the trek to Ames as many times as they could.

“When you watch your kid play for so many years, and she moves far away, it’s hard,” Carrie said. “So we come as often as we can. And whether it’s a long weekend, or we take a day off, we come as often as we can, and obviously watch every game that we can.”

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Cyclone Super Bowl Memories

AMES, Iowa – It’s Super Bowl weekend and time for fans across the nation to revel in what has become one of the greatest spectacles in sports.

Iowa State has had its share of players and coaches who have been a part of Super Bowl memories. Listed below are five fun facts of Cyclone Super Bowl history.

Keith Krepfle- The First Touchdown

Iowa State Hall-of-Famer Keith Krepfle made history in Super Bowl XV (January 25, 1981) when he scored the only touchdown for the Philadelphia Eagles vs. the Oakland Raiders. It marked the first time a player from a college in Iowa scored a touchdown in a Super Bowl. Krepfle, who is one of the greatest tight ends in Iowa State history, caught 94 passes for 1,378 yards and 15 touchdowns in his Cyclone career (1971-73). His NFL career was just as impressive, recording 152 receptions for 2,425 yards in 97 career starts. Another former Cyclone tight end, Dan Johnson, became the second collegian from Iowa to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl. Johnson was a member of the Miami Dolphin Super Bowl XIX (January 20, 1985) team. His first quarter two-yard touchdown catch from Dan Marino gave the Dolphins a 10-7 lead. It was the Dolphins’ only touchdown in a 38-16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

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Players from a College in Iowa to score a TD in a Super Bowl
Keith Krepfle (Iowa State)            Super Bowl XV (Philadelphia Eagles, 1981)
Dan Johnson (Iowa State)             Super Bowl XIX (Miami Dolphins, 1985)
Tim Dwight (Iowa)                           Super Bowl XXXIII (Atlanta Falcons, 1999)
Kurt Warner (UNI)                           Super Bowl XXXVI (St. Louis Rams, 2002)

Otto Stowe- The Perfect Season

Otto Stowe was a member of one of the most famous teams in NFL history, and he has a Super Bowl ring to prove it. Stowe was a wide receiver on the 1972 Miami Dolphins undefeated (17-0) squad. The Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII (Jan 14, 1973), 14-7, to cap off the NFL’s last perfect season. Stowe caught 13 passes during the 1972 campaign and he proudly displayed his Super Bowl ring when he was enshrined into the Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008. He was the first Cyclone to be on a Super Bowl-winning team, earning rings with the Dolphins in Super Bowl VII and VIII. Stowe led the Big Eight in receptions (59), receiving yards (822) and touchdown catches (6) as a senior in 1970.

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Iowa State Hall-of-Famer Otto Stowe was a member of two Super Bowl champion teams with the Miami Dolphins (Super Bowl VII and VIII).

Cyclone Coaching Tree

When the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos met in Super Bowl XLVIII (Feb. 2, 2014), the Iowa State football program gained some national notoriety. The reason being that both head coaches – Pete Carroll (Seattle) and John Fox (Denver) – spent time early in their careers as assistant coaches at Iowa State. Carroll was on Earle Bruce’s final staff in 1978 and Fox was the defensive coordinator on Jim Criner’s 1984 Cyclone staff.

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Former Cyclone Player Directs Defense In Super Bowl

Rod Rust is a Webster City, Iowa native who lettered for the Cyclones in 1947-48, starting at center in 1948. Rust went on to an outstanding coaching career, including stints with eight NFL teams. He was the first former Cyclone player to coach in a Super Bowl as the defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX (January 26, 1986) vs. the Chicago Bears. Rust later became the head coach of the Patriots during the 1990 season.

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Rod Rust was Iowa State’s starting center in 1948. He was the defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX.

Rookie Wins It All

Iowa State All-American Kelechi Osemele became the third Cyclone to play on a Super Bowl-winning team as the starting left guard for the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII (Feb. 3, 2013). The Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31. Osemele joined Stowe (Super Bowl VI, VII; Miami Dolphins) and Karl Nelson (Super Bowl XXI; New York Giants) in the elite club as Super Bowl winners. Osemele was one of two rookies to start for the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.

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Iowa State All-American Karl Nelson won a Super Bowl as a starting offensive lineman for the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI.

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Morris’ Record Defies Logic

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Yesterday afternoon in Nashville, Monté Morris took a couple dribbles left, looked to his right and as is customary with the point guard, delivered a perfect pass directly into the shooter’s pocket as Matt Thomas ripped the nets for his fourth three of the game. That assist broke a record that had stood for 31 years as he passed Jeff Hornacek for first on Iowa State’s all-time assist chart. Morris, who has 666 assists, has not only dished out more assists than anyone in Cyclone history, he’s done so while taking what can almost be described as ridiculous care of the basketball.

What we’ve all had the pleasure of witnessing the last four seasons just isn’t something you see very often. A true playmaker with an uncanny ability and pride in protecting the ball, Morris is a pass first point guard. I once asked him about his low turnovers. He explained that he always played up a level against older kids and that if he turned the ball over he’d find himself on the bench. So Monté just didn’t turn it over. Simple, right? Not really.

Since the 1993-94 season, 74 NCAA Division I players have recorded more than 660 career assists. Not one player from a top-six conference has done so while turning the ball over fewer times than Morris (146 turnovers).

The closest player from one of the top-six leagues to have 660 assists was Notre Dame’s Tory Jackson, who finished his playing career in 2010 with 694 assists and 257 turnovers.

His 4.56 career assist-to-turnover ratio is going to absolutely shatter the NCAA Division I career record of 3.45 that was held by Pittsburgh’s James Robinson (2013-16) heading into this season.

Career Assist-To-Turnover Ratio (Since 2000)
Monté Morris, Iowa State, 4.56
James Robinson, Pittsburgh, 3.45
Cardwell Johnson, UAB, 3.15
Fred VanVleet, Wichita State, 3.08
Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin, 3.01

Of this group, only Jordan Taylor (1,533) scored more points than Morris (1,460) has currently. Morris will almost surely top that mark. He also has more assists than anyone on that list.

Morris Assist Notes

  • Morris has 13 career games with 10 or more assists…the rest of the active Big 12 have a combined EIGHT 10-assist games.
  • In games with 10 assists, Morris owns an 8.7 (139 assists/16 turnovers) assist-to-turnover ratio.
  • Morris is the second player in school history to record four 100-assist seasons (Gary Thompkins, 1985-88).
  • Since 2007-08, no player in Division I has posted four seasons with at least 130 assists and less than 60 turnovers…Morris has a chance to accomplish that.
  • Morris is just the second player in school history (Hornacek) and third in Big 12 history (Aaron Miles and Kirk Hinrich, Kansas) with 1,000 points, 600 assists and 200 steals…only four Division I players since 2010 have posted 1,500 points, 700 assists and 200 steals.
  • Via points (1,460) and assists (1,632), Morris has accounted for 3,092 points in his career.

Morris Career Games (# of Turnovers)
Turnovers          Games
0                        44
1                         36
2                        30
3                        9
4+                     5

Thanks to the help of our statistician, Chris Andringa, here is a breakdown of Morris’ career assists:

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Morris in his first career game against UNC Wilmington. He had four assists and an uncanny three turnovers. Morris had just 25 turnovers in the next 35 games.

First Assist: Nazareth Mitrou-Long, 11/10/13 vs. UNC Wilmington
100th Assist: Dustin Hogue, 2/26/14 vs. West Virginia
200th Assist: Dustin Hogue, 1/6/15 vs. Oklahoma State
300th Assist: Bryce Dejean-Jones, 3/13/15 vs. Oklahoma
400th Assist: Hallice Cooke, 12/30/15 vs. Coppin State
500th Assist: Deonte Burton, 2/20/16 vs. TCU
600th Assist: Deonte Burton, 12/5/16 vs. Omaha
666th Assist: Matt Thomas, 1/28/17 vs. Vanderbilt

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Most Field Goals
135 to Georges Niang
98 to Naz Mitrou-Long
73 to Matt Thomas

Most 3-Point Field Goals
63 to Naz Mitrou-Long
58 to Matt Thomas
52 to Georges Niang

Most Two-Point Field Goals
83 to Georges Niang
52 to Jameel McKay

Most Total Points
322 – Georges Niang
259- Naz Mitrou-Long
204- Matt Thomas

Most Consecutive Assists To One Player
6 to Georges Niang (2/2/15-2/7/15-Two Games)

Most Assists To One Player in One Game
7 to Naz Mitrou-Long vs. Chattanooga (11/23/15)

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Johnson Part Of Strong Coaching Tree

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Iowa State fans exuded unparalleled excitement when news broke that Troy Davis was chosen as a 2016 inductee for the College Football Hall of Fame.

Davis’ honor is the pinnacle of college football. To prove the difficulty of joining this prestigious club, the two-time Heisman Trophy finalist is just one of two Cyclone players in the Hall of Fame.

Iowa State defensive tackle Jamahl Johnson, who just finished his freshman season in 2016, understands the significance of the College Football Hall of Fame. His grandfather, Willie Jeffries, was a 2010 inductee into the CFB Hall of Fame as a coach.

Jeffries’ legacy is an important piece of his family genealogy.

“I really didn’t know much about my grandpa when I was younger, but as I got older I did,” Johnson said. “Talking to my mom (Jeffries’ daughter) and my dad (who played for him) I started to understand how important he was.”

Jeffries was truly a college football coaching pioneer. After a successful run as a head coach in the high school ranks and stints as an assistant at North Carolina A&T and Pittsburgh, Jeffries received his first head coaching gig at his alma mater, South Carolina State, in 1973.

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Willie Jeffries was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

From 1973-78, South Carolina State was the premier team in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Jeffries led the Bulldogs to a 50-13-5 record, five MEAC titles and a black college national title in 1976. Two of his star players at SCSU were future College Football Hall-of-Famers Harry Carson and Donnie Shell.

“I am extremely close with my grandpa,” Johnson said. “We used to talk every Sunday.”

In 1979, Jeffries opened a door that had been firmly shut since major colleges began sponsoring football teams in the late 1800s. Wichita State was looking for a new head coach and Jeffries’ name was high on the list of candidates. He took the job, becoming the first African-American to be a head coach at a predominantly white Division I (FBS) school.

It was a step that paved the way for future successful black coaches in college football. You can learn more about Jeffries’ important contributions to college football in this documentary.

“My mom has really tried to stress his accomplishments, especially since she moved a lot with my grandpa going from college to college when she was younger,” Johnson said. “They told me a lot about the struggles and what he went through to get to where he was. He made a lot of great strides in doing that.”

Johnson’s family coaching tree definitely begins with Jeffries, but it also branches out to his father, Jimmie, who is currently the tight ends coach for the New York Jets.

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Jimmie Johnson is the tight ends coach for the New York Jets. 

Jimmie Johnson, who played tight end in the NFL for 10 years (1989-98), also coached the tight ends for the Minnesota Vikings from 2007-14.

Growing up with a father in the coaching profession, Johnson fully understood the long nights his dad spent at the office.

“It is tough, but having my mom there to support me was really helpful,” Johnson said. “She’s been at every football game I’ve ever played in. My dad would make it to as many games he could, usually on a bye week. It was a little hard at first but we kind of got used to it. That is his occupation. We had to get used to it because he’s paying the bills and everything.”

Johnson is hoping the two coaching mentors in his family can make it to a game next year, because there will be a great chance he will be on the field making plays. He already proved his potential as one of six true freshmen to play in a game in 2016.

Johnson has a keen sense of the valuable football resource he has in his family.

“My dad calls me before every game before he goes to meetings,” Johnson said. “He’ll check up on me. We’ll talk for about 10 minutes to tell me to get off the ball, things like that. I’ve learned a lot about football from him.”

 

 

 

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Remembering Larry Carwell

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Larry Carwell was an exceptional Iowa State football player from 1964-66. He was also a huge success as a professional, playing six seasons (1967-72) in the AFL for the Houston Oilers and New England Patriots, collecting 14 career interceptions along the way.

Today is a day we need to remember Carwell for something besides gridiron success, however.

On this day 33 years ago, Carwell lost his life serving his country.

Carwell entered the United States Drug Enforcement Administration in 1974 shortly after retiring from the pros. He soon became a special agent for the DEA, and on Jan. 9, 1984, Carwell, along with four Air Force servicemen, died in a helicopter crash during an anti-narcotics mission.

Carwell was sent to Miami with the task of stopping drug runners in the Bahamas. During the 1980s, cocaine smuggling was at its peak and the Bahamas was a key link in the smuggling chain.

Just off the coast of the Bahamas, his helicopter developed complications. The aircraft suffered from a dual engine flame out and crashed into the sea. All five bodies were never found.

Carwell was 39 years old.

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A native of Campbell, Ohio, Carwell lettered three years at Iowa State as an outstanding defensive back. He tallied 127 tackles and picked off seven passes in his career. On Oct. 8, 1966, Carwell picked off two Kansas passes and returned the interceptions for 123 return yards. His interception return yardage that day is still a Cyclone school record.

Carwell started over 50 games in the AFL during his distinguished professional career. He had five interceptions for the Patriots in 1971 and returned two interceptions for touchdowns in his career.

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Unlike today’s professional athletes, players in the 1970s were underpaid. They needed a second career to survive, and Carwell was determined and ready for another challenge.

Anybody who knew Carwell would quickly tell you about his love of children and his hatred for drugs. He was sickened how drugs filtered down to kids and ruined their lives. He was going to join the fight and the DEA was his calling.

Carwell was stationed in Houston with the United States Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration’s Houston Field Division soon after becoming a special agent. He was a Sunday school teacher for a local Baptist church and active in drug prevention and sports programs in the community.

It was important for Carwell to set an example for his wife, Lural, and his two children, Larry Jr., Shauntel.

Without a doubt, he did just that, and his legacy is still visible today.

Carwell posthumously received the Association’s Medal of Valor in 1984 and the Houston office where he worked was dedicated as the Carwell Wallace Building in 1997. His high school, Campbell Memorial, also sponsors a $300 per year scholarship in his name to college-bound athletes to this day.

The world could definitely use more Larry Carwells.

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Six Reasons To Come Watch Iowa State Take On No. 6 Mississippi State

TOP COMPETITION

1. Iowa State’s showdown with No. 6 Mississippi State on Saturday is one of the best non-conference games ever in the history of Hilton Coliseum. The Bulldogs enter Hilton Coliseum as the highest ranked non-conference foe since 1990 when the ISU men’s basketball team took on No. 6 Indiana. Therefore, it’s been over a quarter of a century since Cyclone Nation has gotten this caliber of a home non-conference showdown. On the women’s side, Iowa State faced fifth-ranked Iowa in 1989 – 27 years ago.

Mississippi State finished last season with a 28-8 record and advanced to the Sweet 16, falling to eventual national champion UConn. The Bulldogs have one of the nation’s best players in Victoria Vivians, who was given multiple preseason nods and was recently named to the Naismith Trophy watch list. Vivians is currently averaging 14.4 points and 2.4 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs.

MSU is one of 29 teams in the nation with an unblemished record at 7-0. As a team, Mississippi State is outscoring its opponents by 27.4 points per game.

 

SEANNA JOHNSON VS. COMPETITION

2. Seanna Johnson always brings her ‘A’ game on the court, but there’s something to be said for her production against some of Iowa State’s top opponents.

Seanna Johnson in 2015-16

Opponent   Points   Rebounds    Assists

Vs. Iowa       22           10                     5

Vs. OSU        16           13                     2

At Texas       23           6                        4

At OSU         22           9                        6

Vs. Baylor    22           4                        2

Johnson never fails to step it up when the moment calls for it. The proof is in the stats, which is why you won’t want to miss Johnson take on the Bulldogs on Saturday in Hilton Coliseum.

 

PROTECT THE STREAK

3. Iowa State is looking to protect one of its longest running streaks against the sixth-ranked Bulldogs as it has won 96-straight regular season non-conference games. That’s correct. Iowa State has not lost a non-conference game since 2003. That’s 12-straight years of unblemished home non-conference records.

Iowa State’s last home non-conference loss was against Washington when the Cyclones fell 76-55 on Dec. 21, 2003.

A 96-game streak is tough and you don’t get to 96 without a few scares along the way. Check out a few of the closest calls over the last 12 years.

  • Iowa on Dec. 11, 2015 – ISU wins 69-66
    • Intrastate rivalries are always tough, but Iowa State’s win over Iowa last season was one for the ages. The Cyclones trailed by as many as 11 in the third quarter. Johnson would take over in the fourth quarter, netting 11 of ISU’s final 18 points to take the lead and the win.
  • North Carolina A&T on Dec. 29, 2009 – ISU wins 66-62
    • The game was neck-and-neck throughout and with the score 53-52 in favor of the visitors, Alison Lacey netted a 3-point play to give ISU the lead for good. Kelsey Bolte would seal the victory with a pair of free throws to give ISU its final margin, 66-62.
  • No. 20 Vanderbilt on Jan. 3, 2009 – ISU wins 55-51
    • With 28.9 seconds remaining and a 52-49 lead, Lacey buried a pair of free throws to give the Cyclones the five-point lead. A Vanderbilt layup on the next possession threatened the Cyclones, but Heather Ezell launched the inbounds pass to Lacey, who evaded foul before sealing the victory with a free throw go up 55-51 with 6.9 seconds left.

With all of those close calls came a great deal of “Hilton Magic,” which is why it’s even   more important to pack the arena on Saturday when No. 6 Mississippi State comes to town.

 

ATTENDANCE

4. It’s no secret that Iowa State women’s basketball is home to one of the best fan bases in all of women’s college basketball. The Cyclones have enjoyed a top-10 attendance ranking for the last 17 years. Iowa State has also been in the top-5 for the nine-straight seasons.

Our attendance is something Cyclone Nation takes pride in – and should. Even some of the nation’s best women’s basketball programs finished outside of the top-10 in attendance last season. Here are a few of the nation’s best teams who finished outside the top-10 in attendance from the 2015-16 final rankings:

  • 9 Ohio State at 14th in the nation (5,239)
  • 5 Maryland at 15th in the nation (5,229)
  • 6 Mississippi State at 16th in the nation (5,162)
  • 12 Oklahoma at 19th in the nation (4,769)
  • 14 Texas at No. 28 in the nation (3,700)
  • 8 Florida State at 35th in the nation (3,141)

Saturday’s game against Mississippi State will air on FSN, and it’s another chance to showcase Hilton Coliseum and our amazing fan base to a national audience. Plus, the more fans supporting the Cyclones, the more “Hilton Magic” to spread around!

 

DEFEATING NO. 3 TEXAS

5. We’re taking a stroll back to 2014-15 for the fifth reason you should some see ISU take on MSU on Saturday. It was Jan. 10, 2015 and the Cyclones had a tall task ahead of them as the nation’s third-best team was set to come to Hilton Coliseum. The Texas Longhorns entered the game undefeated and had already beaten the likes of Stanford, UCLA, Tennessee and Texas A&M. The Cyclones didn’t flinch, and gave Texas one of the best games Hilton Coliseum has seen.

Facing a 17-point second-half deficit, Iowa State began to slowly chip away from the Longhorn lead. With 0:17 on the clock then-senior point guard Nikki Moody drove to the basket and had every intention of taking the shot, but as the Longhorn’s top player Nneka Enemkpali loomed over Moody, she dished it to Johnson who netted the eventual game winner, 59-57. With seconds remaining, Texas had 0:17 remaining to win or tie the game as the Longhorns missed three-straight shots to seal the victory for Iowa State. The game would go down as one of the most electrifying games Hilton Coliseum had seen in recent memory.

There were many who didn’t give the Cyclones much of a chance against Texas, but with a great game plan and a little “Hilton Magic,” Iowa State proved the doubters wrong.

 

DOWNING NO. 3 BAYLOR

6. Just as Texas had entered Hilton Coliseum earlier in 2014-15 with the No. 3 ranking, Baylor found itself facing the Cyclones on Senior Day. Iowa State played a strong game against the third-ranked Lady Bears, going toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s best.

The game would come down to the wire with Iowa State leading by one point. Baylor’s Niya Johnson drove to the hoop, but her shot didn’t fall and Brynn Williamson secured a tough rebound. Williamson quickly got the ball to Kidd Blaskowsky, who found Johnson in transition for a layup, forcing a BU timeout. On the ensuing possession, Ellis stole the ball from BU’s Alexis Prince and a Moody layup on the other end to put ISU up five, 76-71. The three Cyclone seniors combined for 48 of ISU’s 76 points.

With that being said, we hope you’ll take the time to come cheer us on and ‘Bring the Magic’ on Saturday when we face No. 6 Mississippi State at 1:30 p.m. Don’t forget to wear gold as Saturday serves as ISU’s Gold Rules game.

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