That’s another Cyclone football tradition: getting to know the “first down guy”

Willa Colville

With only five total wins over the course of three years, the 1997 Iowa State football team managed to walk away with only one win for the season. While fans may not have had a lot to cheer about, one man wanted that to change.  

That year, Lance Heimsoth, an Iowa State alum and long-time season-ticket holder, began cheering every time the Cyclones made a first down. Sitting in Section E of Jack Trice Stadium, Heimsoth wanted to create some excitement during the games.

“We didn’t score [touchdowns] very often so I started yelling ‘first down’ just for something positive,” said Heimsoth. 

Though it took a few years to catch on, fans in Heimsoth’s section soon began encouraging his antics.

“If I didn’t do it then people either behind me or in front of me would say, ‘Hey! That’s another Cyclone…’ and then I would yell ‘First down!’ That’s kind of how we started it,” Heimsoth said. 

He quickly became known as “the first down guy” throughout the upper sections of the stadium. He explained that sometimes he would move one or two sections down from Section E if there was an open seat to get new groups of fans excited. Eventually, most of the upper deck knew Heimsoth’s first down chant.  

During one game in the early 2000’s, Heimsoth decided to take off his shirt and get painted for the game. For the next several years he would either paint his body or wear a costume to each game. Along with other men that sat with him, Heimsoth dressed as a Cyclone cheerleader, gymnast and once wore an entire football uniform. 

“[The university] had put all of the uniforms on auction and one of the guys that would sit with us bought [linebacker] Alvin Bowen’s jersey,” Heimsoth said. “I wore his jersey to one of the games along with the pants and helmet, the whole uniform. I didn’t have the pads but I wore the whole thing. When the players got off the bus and walked through the crowd, I went up and shook Bowen’s hand and he started laughing hysterically. It was fun.”

Although Heimsoth is a super fan now, as a child he grew up cheering for the Nebraska Huskers despite being an Iowa native. Iowa State was not broadcast all the time, but Nebraska games were always on, so his family cheered for the Huskers.  

It wasn’t until his older brother attended Iowa State and became a member of the university’s golf team that Heimsoth became interested in the Cyclones. 

“When I was in my teenage years I would go down and visit [my brother] and I would see Ames and that’s kind of how I fell in love with Iowa State,” Heimsoth said.  

In 1988, Heimsoth started school at Iowa State as a finance major, was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and attended nearly every football and men’s basketball game, as well as some women’s basketball games while in school. 

Heimsoth now lives in Sioux City, Iowa. However, the three-hour drive hasn’t stopped him from coming back to Ames often. Since 1988 Heimsoth has only missed a handful of football games. He also tries to go to the Big 12 basketball tournament each year.

“There has been many a night where I would trek home and get back about 2 o’clock in the morning after a game,” Heimsoth said. 

Heimsoth no longer sits in Section E of Jack Trice Stadium, but changed his seats to Section V in order to be closer to his old fraternity brothers. He says that his friendships with the men of Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been one thing that has stood the test of time. One of the reasons Heimsoth still attends the games is to see his brothers.

Heimsoth has passed his love for the Cyclones on to his two daughters, one of whom is currently a sophomore at Iowa State and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma.

“My sister and I went to plenty of Iowa State football games with my dad, and we always looked forward to it,” Jahni Heimsoth, Heimsoth’s daughter, said. “I personally thought, [and still] think, I have the coolest dad ever. When people would talk about the ‘first down guy,’ I knew that they were talking about my dad.”

According to Heimsoth, there have been numerous instances when he has been recognized in front of his family. 

“[Jahni] comes to all the football games and tailgates with us,” Heimsoth said. “The kids got to experience their father being wild and crazy as they were growing up. They’ve heard stories. In fact, we’ve been in places on numerous occasions where we have been walking around and people will yell ‘Hey, it’s the first down guy!'”

While his family was at a country music festival in Cherokee, Iowa, Heimsoth was recognized by a young man.

As he walked around, the young man went up to him and asked, ‘Are you Lance?’ When he said yes, the young man became ecstatic.

“‘Oh my God, you are not gonna believe this,'” he said, “‘but I am now a junior at Iowa State and when I was just a little pipsqueak, eight or nine years old, I used to sit in Section E and you were my idol.'”

The young man took a photo with Heimsoth to send to his father, who also sat in Section E of Jack Trice Stadium. 

Though there are some people who know of Heimsoth, most people do not. However, every Iowa State fan that attends football games knows his cheer. 

In the early 2000s, the announcers at the games started saying the cheer that was popularized by Heimsoth. However, he believes this was just a coincidence.

“The first season that they announced over the PA system, ‘That’s another Cyclone, first down!’ it was funny cause everybody next to me was yelling ‘Lance, they stole your chant!’ So, you know, I didn’t think anything of it. I liked it, just anything to get the crowd participating was enjoyable to me,” Heimsoth explained.

Heimsoth will be celebrating his birthday this weekend at the homecoming game. He said he always looks forward to going to games and plans to be a season-ticket holder for many years to come.

“You know, some people’s obsession or hobbies are fishing or reading or hunting,” Heimsoth said. “Mine is Iowa State Athletics.”