ARLINGTON, Texas — In a matter of three years, coach Matt Campbell has rapidly sparked a change in the culture surrounding the Iowa State football program.
“When I first got to Iowa State all of the questions were: ‘What color uniforms are you wearing?’ ‘What’s your entrance song?’” Campbell said Tuesday at Big 12 media days. “People cared about stuff that really doesn't matter, and now we’re talking about a football team, we’re asked football questions and we’re concerned about what’s really important, in terms of growing a football culture in a football program the right way.”
After seven consecutive seasons of being projected to finish seventh or lower in the Big 12, the Cyclones were picked third in this year’s preseason poll behind Oklahoma and Texas, showing dramatically increased expectations among media members.
“I don’t mean this to be negative in any stretch of the imagination, but if we worried about what the expectations of our football program were outside of our walls the first three years, I think we would have crumbled really fast,” Campbell said. “So what we’ve been able to do is handle our own expectations and making our own expectations way loftier than anything that could be said outside of our walls.”
Behind a stellar defense and an up-and-coming quarterback in Brock Purdy, the Cyclones are seemingly trending upward under Campbell, a rising star in his own right. Iowa State has delivered back-to-back eight-win seasons after a four-year stretch with an 11-37 record.
“This is a group that we continue to pour into what it means to be an Iowa State Cyclone, what it means to have great humility and character and when that’s your starting point it gives you the ability to have a great foundation underneath you to navigate whatever comes your way,” Campbell said.
Breaking through in a conference that has crowned OU the conference champion in four consecutive seasons won’t be easy, but Iowa State seems focused on the details that can result in on-the-field success.
“The goal is to have a great chemistry still at the end of the season,” linebacker Marcel Spears Jr. said. “A lot of teams start out strong and then once you get to the middle of the season, you kind of start seeing them get tired and lag off.
“We want to keep that chemistry so the morale can stay strong throughout the whole season, just be able to be consistent. I feel like that’s where consistency comes from, when we’re together as a team.”