Campbell emphasizes the process in turning around ISU footballl

From left, Matt Campbell, new head football coach and Jamie Pollard, director of athletics share excitement as Campbell steps up to new position on Nov. 30.

Luke Manderfeld

After a several-hour interview with ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard and the rest of the ISU administration, Matt Campbell knew he was the next head football coach at Iowa State.  That was on Saturday. 

On Sunday night, Campbell was already at work. 

He called players on the ISU football team, including Allen Lazard, alerting them of his arrival and introducing himself. Then he hit the recruiting trail.

It’s one of his favorite things to do — recruiting. 

“I like to recruit,” Campbell said. “You win with players, and getting on that recruiting trail early was really important to me.”

The work ethic that drove Campbell to work the night after receiving the job of his dreams is what drove Pollard to Campbell in the first place. It didn’t surprise Pollard that Campbell already started his work.

If anything, he expected it.

“What I learned on Sunday morning is that we got one heck of a football coach because he spent Saturday night grinding and working already as the Iowa State football coach,” Pollard said. 

He also started to piece his staff together, thinking of the big picture. He wanted to create a template and find assistant coaches that fit that mold.

He had already decided the first hire of his new coaching staff before he came to Ames on Monday. Current ISU running back coach Lou Ayeni coached with Campbell at Toledo before Ayeni came to Iowa State in 2014. 

“Coach Ayeni and I have a great relationship,” Campbell said. “He coached for me. And, more than anything, I have a great friendship in terms of football. Coach Ayeni will stay on staff here, and he would be my first hire.”

During his introductory press conference on Monday, Campbell stressed the importance of the process. He knew that change in the ISU football program, which has eight wins in the past three seasons, wasn’t going to happen overnight. It was going to take a bit of time. 

But more than anything, he wanted the rest of his team and staff to reach their top potential. That’s how he believes this program will turn around.  

“I believe that’s what you have to do to reach your full potential,” Campbell said. “That’s what I’m going to ask each and every one of these young men that I get a chance to meet with today to do.”

Ayeni has seen Campbell’s coaching work first-hand at Toledo. Although the change in culture may shock some of the players, Ayeni believes it’s exactly what the team needs to be successful. 

“I’m real excited to see it work here, because I know what’s going to happen and how it’s going to be,” Ayeni said. “These kids have no idea, and it’s going to be a culture shock a little bit, but it’s going to be great in the end, and I think it’s going to be what really takes this program to another level.”

Going forward, Campbell will attempt to meet with every player on the team in the next couple of days and have a one-on-one discussion. He said during the weekend that it wasn’t about him coming to Iowa State, it was about the players. 

That’s how he turned around a Toledo team that had struggled in the Mid-America Conference before he arrived in 2009. He trusted the players and the players trusted him back. 

And nothing shows that more than Campbell’s signature phrase”

“Kids don’t know how much you know until they know how much you care about them.” 

Campbell said every choice he makes for the rest of his ISU coaching career will center around the fans, community, and most importantly, his players. 

“I’m going to be diligent,” Campbell said. “I’m going to do a really good job in making sure [I’m] putting the right people here. Our football players here deserve the right people, and I’m going to work hard to do that.”