Iowa State defensive lineman hopes to continue legacy

Aaron Marner

When the Iowa State football team takes the field Sept. 2 against Northern Iowa, a familiar No. 58 jersey will be leading the charge.

The person wearing No. 58, however, won’t be the same.

Wearing the No. 58 jersey has become a point of great pride in recent years, ever since the death of former Iowa State defensive line coach Curtis Bray in January 2014.

Bray, a standout defensive end at Pittsburgh from 1988 to 1992, wore No. 58 during his playing days.

In 2014, Iowa State defensive end Cory Morrissey wore No. 58 to honor his former coach. Morrissey passed it on to Mitchell Meyers, who missed the 2015 season while he battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Meyers returned to the field in 2016 wearing No. 58 and was one of five players to start all 12 games for the Cyclones.

During the 2016 season, Meyers approached fellow defensive end J.D. Waggoner to see if Waggoner would be interested in wearing No. 58 in 2017.

Waggoner’s response?


Waggoner said he wasn’t surprised when Meyers approached him because Waggoner is the last remaining Bray recruit on the roster, but it was still an honor.

Waggoner, who will be a redshirt senior when the 2017 season rolls around, has played in 17 games during the past two years. He played in each of Iowa State’s first five games in 2016 before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury against Baylor.

He is still somewhat limited in practice. Waggoner, along with JaQuan Bailey, are two of the few experienced players on the Iowa State defensive line and both have missed practice time this spring.

“That’s two guys that played a lot of football for us last year are on the sidelines,” defensive line coach Eli Rasheed said. “[Waggoner] has been going through [individual workouts]. We just want to keep him out of spring and make sure he’s ready for the fall.”

Rasheed said Waggoner, who finished with 12 tackles in five games last year, is currently penciled in as a starter on the defensive line.

As far as wearing No. 58 goes, Waggoner couldn’t hide his pride.

“It’s the greatest honor I could ever have,” Waggoner said. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for coach Bray. I didn’t get a lot of looks out of high school and he’s one of the guys that took a shot on me — him and [former head coach Paul] Rhoads — and so I owe it all to him.

“I’m definitely going to wear that with a lot of pride and honor him the right way.”

Waggoner played for Bray for just one season before Bray died.

“I only played for him for half a year,” Waggoner said. “But I definitely understood what he was about. I still take some of the teachings he taught me and apply them every day.”

Waggoner said he isn’t sure what the team will do with No. 58 after this season because nobody else on the current roster played for Bray.

“I’m the last guy [on the team] to know coach Bray,” Waggoner said. “So I don’t know what we’re going to do after this year. That’s kind of up to his wife’s and Cory’s idea. I just want to be able to honor him the right way.”