From ‘laughing stock’ to a bridge built: Iowa State sends transformational players off strong

Brock Purdy walks off the field after Iowa State’s 48-14 win over TCU on Nov. 26.

Matt Belinson

AMES — Finality and legacy. Those were the buzzwords sprinkled throughout Friday’s postgame after Iowa State handled TCU 48-14 on Senior Day.

And those thoughts came on multiple fronts.

For starters, the Cyclones honored 23 seniors before Friday’s win, marking the end of a legacy built by what Matt Campbell’s called the greatest senior class Iowa State has ever seen. It’s a legacy Campbell said his group of seniors never were afraid of crafting for themselves. 

No instructions. No hand to guide them on how it’s done. They worked and clawed. And now, the chapter had a fitting ending on Friday, giving Campbell comfort in knowing this is how the senior class will be remembered.

“This group chose to come to Iowa State when it was the laughing stock of college football,” Campbell said. “They came to Iowa State at 2-10, 3-9, 3-9, 2-10. They didn’t come here, man, when they just played in the Alamo Bowl, they just played and won the Fiesta Bowl. They came here when it was no hope.”

“And they chose to blaze a trail.”

The foundational leader Campbell has given first credit to in the transformation of Iowa State football has been Brock Purdy. The senior from Gilbert, Ariz., marked his final game in Jack Trice Stadium with fittingly-efficient night.

Purdy ended 21-30 for 262 yards and two touchdowns — one to fellow senior Chase Allen and the other to the Cyclones’ tailback Breece Hall.

More on Hall in a second. And there’s a lot to dive into.

But Purdy’s final game was met with expected tears from Campbell, Purdy, family and teammates. The day was about as hard as you’d expect from someone who’s been credited with leading this program out of the darkness before him.

The game had just ended, and his face was still red from the emotions of the day, but Purdy wasn’t afraid to say what he and his fellow seniors have given to this program. And their success doesn’t mean it’ll be a cake walk from now until the end of time.

But Friday night, after securing a 7-5 record and giving Iowa State a chance to go to a bowl game for the fifth-straight season, Purdy wasn’t shying away from what comes after this foundation is gone.

He was proud.

“It’s gonna be hard. But, you can look back at what we’ve been through and build off those,” Purdy said. “I do feel like we have left something for this next generation to come through and continue to build off of.”

Although he isn’t a senior, Hall, a junior, had one of his most sensational nights as a Cyclone. The Wichita, Kan., native rushed for a career-high 242 yards, three touchdowns and had a receiving score to boot.

And in the process of his scoring explosion, he made history — NCAA history to be exact.

Hall rushed for a touchdown in his 24th-straight game, setting a new NCAA record after topping Arkansas’ Bill Burnett’s 51-year-old record. 

“It meant a lot, just to finally get it done,” Hall said of his achievement. “Today, I really came in not even focusing on it. I just wanted to play hard for the seniors, send the seniors out right.”

Hall tied for the fifth most touchdowns in a single game in Iowa State history on Friday and rushed for over 200 yards for the first time in his career.

“As special as I’ve seen him,” Campbell said of Hall post-game.

And while the individual accomplishments of Friday were special, Campbell ended his presser with a message of hope.

It formed from the words of poet Will Allen Dromgoole in his poem titled, “The Bridge Builder.”

It’s the story of an old man who comes across a path seemingly unsafe and impossible to get across. He works tirelessly to make it to the other side, only to be told he’s wasting his time along the way.

Spotting the parallels between the poem and Iowa State aren’t complicated. And Campbell said that’s exactly the point. This group of seniors built a bridge when it was a dumb idea. When the success was impossible to some.

“One of the things I think this group has done is, man, they came to a river that had never been crossed. And brick by brick they built the bridge. They didn’t run from it. They didn’t try to escape it,” Campbell said.

“The bridge that they have built for Iowa State football going forward is maybe one of the most powerful bridges this program has ever seen because it’s never been built. And this group did it.”