“Any given Saturday”: Campbell’s thoughts on the upcoming football season


Photo courtesy of the Big 12 Conference

Matt Campbell talking to the press during the Big 12 Media Days.

Christian Royston

The second Big 12 Media Day gave fans insight from various Iowa State football players and head coach Matt Campbell. 

The new Big 12 commissioner got his time in the spotlight Wednesday, while Iowa State got its time Thursday. With many pressing questions needing answers, Campbell did his best to build excitement around the upcoming football season.

The hardball questions came right out of the gate, as Campbell would have to evaluate the conference as a whole. Who would come out on top, and who would surprise the football world?

Last year’s preseason poll put Iowa State high on the list, as the team was expected to compete for the top spot in the conference. Unfortunately, the season didn’t play out as hoped, which put the Cyclones at No. 6 on the 2022 preseason poll.

Although it’s interesting to see where Iowa State is expected to land, Campbell doesn’t let the rankings decide how hard his team should work.

“If we would’ve ever listened to what people said about Iowa State in the preseason hype, we would have never got our program off the ground,” Campbell said.

The program has had many ups and downs, but at the end of the day, Iowa State will always be competitive. The Cyclones have many strong pieces on the team, even though they lost many longtime starters to the NFL.

The defense is looking as good as ever, and the offense has done a great job working to fill all the holes. One big area that Campbell has been able to focus on strengthening is the offensive and defensive lines.

Returning stars will strongly impact the team’s success, as offensive lineman Trevor Downing is expected to move from the guard position to the center. Defensive end Will McDonald IV is coming off a historic season and will look to cause chaos for opposing teams again in 2022.

Games are won or lost in the trenches, and Campbell knows that. That’s why the Cyclones will come out looking strong in the upcoming season.

Another area that Campbell reiterated throughout his time talking with the press was how important it is to build a strong foundation. The returning players have had time to get comfortable with Iowa State’s principles, but the new faces will have to adjust to Campbell’s expectations.

“Trust is really hard to build and can be broken really fast,” Campbell. “That’s got to be our foundation if we’re going to have success.”

Building that trust is something Campbell has worked on for years, and it’s the main reason the Cyclones have seen consistent success. It will be very important for the Cyclones to work as a unified team if they want to take down the other strong teams in the conference.

Baylor is coming off a strong year and is expected to finish on top of the Big 12. Oklahoma has made good progress in the offseason and will be knocking at the door for the top spot alongside Baylor. 

Along with them, teams such as Texas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State are all looking to be much improved and have a shot at competing for the title of Big 12 champions. There is no telling how things will shake out when it comes down to it, but it’s clear that it will come down to the margins.

Campbell said the Big 12 has seen consistent success as a whole because of “the ability for anybody to beat anybody any given Saturday.”

That ability to keep games close was a big theme last season for the Cyclones. Campbell said during the media day that he wouldn’t be surprised if, over the last few seasons, Iowa State has the most games in college football decided by one score.

Many games were close, especially against Big 12 opponents. They were close to toppling Oklahoma and Baylor and even kept it close against Clemson in the Cheez-It Bowl.

The Cyclones just need to figure out how to flip the script in their favor in those close games. For now, Campbell made it clear that they aren’t dwelling on the past or spending too much time worrying about where they may end up.

“Greatness is never about overcoming others,” Campbell said. “The ability to find greatness is the ability to overcome yourself.”

Right now, the Cyclones are focusing on themselves and building up the strong pieces they have on the team. With the loss of longtime stars Breece Hall and Brock Purdy, a young running back in Jirehl Brock will lead the backfield, and a new quarterback in Hunter Dekkers will be calling the shots.

“Myself, our program and our players have complete faith in our quarterback room and especially in a guy like Hunter,” Campbell said. “Especially how he practiced every day and when he got the moments to get in the game and perform, he was able to perform at a really high rate.”

Campbell has been upfront with his expectations of the quarterback room and the trust he has in Dekkers. It won’t be very hard for Dekkers to get comfortable since he’s already had real-game experience.

Last season Dekkers got “really meaningful snaps,” according to Campbell. He’s had experience leading the team to success and also encountered obstacles.

It was important for the team to not only put Dekkers in positions to succeed but also see how he overcame failure. The growth from one year ago is astounding, and Dekkers should be ready to take charge come September.

One of the games that Campbell noted was the game against Oklahoma late in the season. Dekkers threw a heartbreaking interception late in the game, which looked to be the end of the Cyclones’ chances at taking down the Sooners.

Dekkers didn’t let that affect his mentality and came back in to lead a drive down the field and set the Cyclones up for a chance to take the game. Although Oklahoma won in the end, Dekkers showed great maturity and composure in that game, which is why the Cyclones were able to put it within one score.

At the end of the day, it is a tough ask to replace Purdy. It might not be possible to replace a player of that caliber and prestige at Iowa State, but that shouldn’t be the main focus. Dekkers is very talented and capable of taking over for Purdy, and the team believes that.

“Try to be the best Hunter Dekkers he can be, not the best Brock Purdy,” Campbell said.

With Dekkers and other players stepping up to fill the holes, the Cyclones should have a shot at a successful season. They’ve been close before, and it seems now might be the time for the team to put everything together.

Similar to Brett Yormark’s press conference, Campbell was able to end on a light note. Campbell said how spending time with his kids is a great break from football.

No one can spend every second of the day working, and Campbell is no different. However, his break from football doesn’t give him a break from coaching. Over the spring, Campbell coached his daughter’s fifth and sixth-grade softball team to an 18-2 season and a championship win, which, judging by the smile across his face, brought him a lot of pride.

Campbell has been a great coach on the football field, and it seems his coaching success doesn’t stop there. It will be interesting to see how the Cyclones attack the season and if they can quiet the haters come fall.