Living out his childhood dream: Colin Newell lets it come full circle at Iowa State

Iowa State offensive lineman Colin Newell talks to reporters during Iowa State media day on August 9.

Sam Stuve

Colin Newell had one very clear goal in his childhood: to play for his hometown team, the Iowa State Cyclones.

Now heading into his fifth year wearing the Cardinal and Gold, Newell, a center, has one season left with his hometown team, which has more hype around it than ever before.

“It’s been pretty special. Honestly, It’s a dream come true,” Newell said. “Growing up in Ames and being a Cyclone fan my whole life, coming to every football game, basketball game, wrestling, all that stuff growing up, it’s truly a special moment.”

Newell grew up in Ames, playing football, basketball, wrestling, among other things. He was a two-sport athlete at Ames High School, playing football as an offensive lineman and was on the wrestling team, making the state tournament twice.

In the spring of his junior year, Newell, a three-star recruit at the time, was in the thick of college recruitment.

While he fielded other offers, after Newell went on his official visit to Iowa State on Jan. 20, 2017, during his junior year of high school, Newell committed soon after, on Feb. 1, 2017.

“It was honestly surprising and breathtaking; it was almost like, ‘Oh, my goodness,’ this dream I have is actually a possibility for reality here,” Newell said. “My family has been Iowa State fans their whole lives. This is really our home, so just being able to continue to play college ball here has been really special.”

Newell comes from a family of Cyclones.

His mother, Vickie, and his father, John, are both Iowa State graduates and a set of his grandparents are as well. John said there was a lot of excitement following his decision to commit to Iowa State.

“There was a lot of excitement; it’s completely incredible; I couldn’t ask for more,” he said.

Vickie said there wasn’t a particular moment where Colin got hooked and became an Iowa State fan, but rather, he’s just been an Iowa State fan since he was born.

“It’s been his whole life; there wasn’t a time where wasn’t a fan,” she said. “He’s always been a fan.”

While in high school, Newell, a three-star recruit, drew interest from not only Iowa State, but had five other offers, including from Iowa. Vickie said he tried to keep an open mind in recruitment before he was offered by Iowa State, but the Cyclones were always special to him.

“We knew it was his passion; his heart is at ISU,” Vickie said.

On top of the opportunity to play football at Iowa State, there were other reasons for Newell, a family and consumer science major, to stay in Ames for college.

This includes the opportunity to stay close to his family and his long-time girlfriend, Megan Meyn, to whom he is now engaged to. The school itself and its location in Ames was very important to Colin as well.

““He loves the Ames community, and he knew academically it was a good [school],” she said.

Colin loves the community, and Vickie said the community loves him. She said that people will come up to her and say they are excited for the family and that they had never watched the center position before Colin had started playing.

Colin’s high school football coach, Bruce Vertanen, the long-time head football coach at Ames High, said his recruitment was very similar to another former Ames High alum, Austen Arnaud, who played quarterback at Iowa State from 2006-2010.

“They’re a decade apart, but their recruitment was identical,” Vertanen said.

Vertanen said that both of them showed a desire to play for Iowa State but also had Power 5 schools looking at them at the end. For Newell, that school was Stanford, according to Vertanen, but Newell chose to stay home, and Stanford didn’t offer him.

The desire to stay home and play for his hometown kept him from going somewhere else, something which not a lot of players get to do.

“A lot of kids grow up ISU fans and want to play here, but few do…’s a dream come true for those kids,” Vertanen said. “It was a dream of his.”

Parts of Colin’s journey to being a third (full) year starter for Iowa State features parts where he tried a new sport and had to respond to adversity in his athletic career.

Following his freshman season of football, Vertanen said Colin came to him and asked, “what else can I do to get better,” which would partly be why Colin tried the sport of wrestling.

Ames High Wrestling Head Coach Andy Fecht had also been trying to convince him to try out wrestling, which he did and initially got frustrated with, according to Fecht.

“You could tell early he was frustrated, but he wanted to fix that. He’s a problem solver,” Fecht said.

Fix that he did as after going 1-6 in his freshman year at Heavyweight, he had a record of 32-15 in his sophomore year and qualified for the 2015 IHSAA State Tournament, where he went 1-2.

“He’s not afraid of hard work; he embraces them; it’s awesome,” Fecht said.

Also, during that sophomore year, he also made the varsity football team and was a starter for what would be the first of three years starting. During his junior year (2015-16), Newell suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder at the tail end of the football season, causing him to miss the entirety of that following wrestling season.

After surgery and rehab, Newell started for the third year in a row on the football team; Newell returned to the starting lineup for the 2016-17 wrestling season and made it back to the state tournament, earning a 31-4 record, a conference title and a district title along the way.

At the 2018 state tournament, Newell went 2-3 (each loss only came by one point), finishing eighth, and according to Fecht, fought through the same shoulder injury that he had suffered two years prior.

Bouncing back from injuries is something he’s also had to do in college.

During his sophomore season (2019), Colin suffered a knee injury in the season-opener against Northern Iowa and missed the regular season but made it back for the game against Notre Dame in the Camping World Bowl in December.

“He’s fought through adversity, through injuries, but he always seems to bounce back,” Fecht said.

Fecht said that Colin simply hates to lose.

“The number one thing about Colin is that he’s super competitive. He hates to lose,” Fecht said.

Vertanen also spoke has high praise for Colin in regards to toughness and wanting to improve.

“He’s got a lot of toughness, he’s never content and I always say that’s a sign of greatness,” Vertanen said. “He was very focused early on (in high school), he had a clear goal (to get better)…during his freshman year, I would see him sitting in the stands watching our varsity practices and taking it all in; he was ahead mentally.”

Vertanen said he saw that Colin was special when after his first shoulder surgery when Colin was told to not do any workouts using his shoulders for six weeks but still was doing a workout that wouldn’t strain that shoulder.

“I knew he was special after that surgery; he was doing sit-ups the day after it and said, ‘well, they never said I couldn’t do sit-ups,”” Vertanen said.

Both Fecht and Vertanen said that wrestling was a great experience for Colin and that it helped him in the long run.

“I think if you ask Colin now, he’ll tell you he’s a wrestler,” Fecht said. “I’m no expert on football, but I think wrestling and football go hand and hand, especially for offensive linemen.”

Vertanen said wrestling helped Colin on the football field with leverage when blocking and his overall toughness.

Coming back to his old stomping grounds appears to be important to Newell, as both coaches said Newell has been back to the facilities. Throughout his high school years, Newell played sports with one other current Iowa State athlete, wrestler Marcus Coleman.

Coleman was a three-time state champion in wrestling and played defensive back in football. Coleman has placed in the top five in the Big 12 Wrestling Championships three times and is a three-time NCAA qualifier.

“I love seeing his success that he’s been able to have and I would say both of us had this dream of playing at Iowa State and being successful,” Newell said.

Being an Ames resident and an Iowa State fan, Newell said the fan base is “as loyal as they come.”

“I remember showing up to games in cold weather when we weren’t as good, and they’re always there to support, always there to encourage,” Newell said. “I just kind of think of my own memories of when I was a fan when I was younger, the high fives when players were running by the locker room and all that stuff was always so special. So really, truly the best fanbase in the country.”

Since he grew up as a fan of Iowa State, Newell has some favorite program memories.

Some of his favorite memories he had as a kid at Iowa State games were watching Seneca Wallace and specific games such as the Nov. 12, 2005, game against Colorado (a game played with no fans despite tornadoes touching down in the surrounding area), and a Sept. 11, 2011, triple-overtime win over Iowa.

Now he’s had the opportunity to make Iowa State memories as a player. In his four years at Iowa State, the program has had a run of success that it hadn’t previously had.

For instance, in his four years on campus, Iowa State has made a bowl game every year, which is the program’s longest streak. Iowa State also just won its first Big 12 regular season title, totaling nine wins, which is tied for the most in a season (2000) in program history.

Newell said it was special to be a part of last year’s team that went to the program’s first Big 12 Championship game and won its first New Year’s Six Bowl Game in the program’s first appearance.

He said the team’s success has been a mixture of the players, coaches, and other team staff.

“The group that we have here as players, coaches, support staff, academic staff, everyone nutrition, all that and strength staff especially. They’re just second to none,” Newell said. “They’re a huge part of the success that we’ve been able to have here, and they’re always there to support us and make this place special.”

Newell has also had individual success while playing for Iowa State. He’s been a Rimington Award (awarded to the best center in the country) finalist in the last two seasons and earned a spot on the Coaches All-Big 12 First Team. He’s also on the 2021 Preseason All-Big 12 First Team. Even in his redshirt year (2017), Newell made an impact, winning the Iowa State Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year Award.

For Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell, that passion for the Cyclones has allowed Newell to be successful since he first joined the program.

“I think that’s always been one thing that’s allowed Colin to really get off to a great start in our program early on, is because there was such a pride factor of, ‘man, this is really important for me to come here and help this program,’” Campbell said. “From day one, he has brought that kind of pride, that kind of energy and that kind of commitment to our program, and now you see a young man that’s engaged, he’s ready to graduate, and he’s been anchored to the success of our football team.”

Vertanen said Colin’s athleticism showed in combine competitions that team had when he was in high school, saying that he did well against not only fellow offensive lineman, but against the entire team as well.

Newell isn’t the only collegiate athlete in his immediate family, his sister, Hannah, was a swimmer at Eastern Michigan (2014-18.) Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy said the part of Colin’s game that sticks out on the football field the most is his knowledge of it.

“His leadership that he has up there, he’s the one making calls to the whole line, depending on what fronts and blitzes that are coming, he’s done a tremendous job in that regard,” Purdy said.

Campbell said he couldn’t ask for anything more from Newell.

“You couldn’t ask for anything more from what Colin Newell has done on the football field, who he’s meant as a leader in our program, and really what he stands for in the Ames community, he’s been nothing short of exceptional,” Campbell said.

Although he’s five years removed from coaching him, Vertanen said he doesn’t think he’s missed a snap of his in the last four years and watches his games with a sense of pride like a parent, like he does for all his former players.

In regards to being from the Ames community, Colin’s given the team a look at what the community is, according to Purdy.

“As far as where he’s from here in Ames, he does give everybody a glimpse of what this place is about. He’s got a great heart and he makes you want to play with him; he’s that kind of guy. The whole team is thankful that Colin is our leader on the O-line,” Purdy said.

Despite having never been to a conference championship game or a premiere college football bowl game before this last year, Newell had dreams as a kid of Iowa State being a prominent program at the national level.

“You always want to have big dreams as a kid, and as all the fans know, we always had the potential, and we had the support from the fans,” Newell said. “I think growing up, you always wish that we wanted to win the national championship playing football, I want to be at Iowa State and do it.”