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1-on-1 with Iowa State Football Coach Matt Campbell

Sports Director Jon Schaeffer sits down with Cyclones head football coach Matt Campbell

Read the full transcription:

JON:

I asked you after that Camping World Bowl, you know, how long would it take you to get to the video? How long did it take you? And what was that like having to go back and kind of relive that?

COACH CAMPBELL:

Yeah, you know, so I watched it on the plane ride home. And, you know, I, to me, it almost gave me a reassurance. You know, to be honest with you, I almost left Florida with a sense of confidence that what we played like a Kansas State I felt, even though as close as that game really was, there were some things in the game I didn’t feel comfortable about.

But I felt like we were realigned in terms of who we are. And, you know, the attitude, the effort, our toughness, I thought our kids played really hard in that football game. I think if you really go back and study that game, you know, what we played and how we played. I was really proud of some of the things that obviously, I thought the game was defining for us because I do think some of the things that we did in the game, the turnovers, inefficiency on third down on both sides of the football.

Some of those things getting off maybe to a slow start some of those things that were pretty much equal and some of the losses that we had through the season showed again and showed again against a team that is one of the best teams in college football. And so I felt like that was really huge for us to say, there’s some real great things we can take from that from that videotape, but who we are is who we are.

And if we don’t get these fixed, then we’re not going to be able to take the next step that we want to take as a football program. So, I probably felt better about what I really felt I saw on that video, on that tape, or on that game and then watching that tape. I felt pretty, pretty confident where we were in who we were at that time.

JON: 

Brock Purdy comes out and talks to us after that game of all the guys that probably could talk to us he didn’t need to I mean, he was battling an injury. Does that kind of just speak to who Brock is as a leader in that locker.

COACH CAMPBELL:

Yeah, you know, I think what makes Brock really special is, Brock wants he wants the responsibility of success or failure, he wants it on his shoulders. And I think that’s the thing that great leaders have that in common is they want to take ownership when it’s good, but when things get really hard, and I think that’s the difference between the great ones and the ones that are are good.

And Brock’s one of those guys said, he wants that responsibility at all times. And you know, what a fascinating year for Brock to be honest with you, in a lot of ways. I think the… yeah, you just got to go through what you went through this year. And you know, dealing with, you know, expectations and the pressure and having successes and having failures and being able to work through that for the first time in his career as the, as the man going into the season. I was really proud of being able to sit back and then watch him. Yeah, he was phenomenal for this football team and for our program.

JON:

I mean, you you watch him kind of grow and deal with injuries it. I’ve seen you chat with him right after games. What’s your guys’s relationship like, I mean, is it you know, Obviously there’s that coach aspect but is there a little bit of that “dad away from home” kind of aspect to it?

COACH CAMPBELL:

You know, I think Brock is one of those players. And that’s what’s great about coaching is that young people can have a great impact on who you are as a person. And, you know, Brock’s one of those guys of how he lives his life, how he has this great humility about himself. I think he’s had a great impact on not only myself, but our entire coaching staff and for a young man to be as mature as he is, it’s been profound. And so I think our relationship is certainly really strong.

And I think that strength lies in really our ability just to, you know, understand the position he’s in and I think he understanding the position I’m in at times and, you know, I really, you know, the ability for us to grow together because it has been a growth process together just even this program, our relationship, his his process and my own process. And so there’s nobody I don’t know if there’s a there’s a guy that’s better to go through with him what Brock Purdy’s been for myself and really this program.

JON:

As you get ready for spring ball here, obviously, a lot of eyes are going to be on that offensive line with the turnover you’re seeing there. Is that kind of where your focus is heading into it as well or is there a position you’re keeping an eye on or mostly excited about to just see how it shakes out?

COACH CAMPBELL:

Yeah, you know, honestly, I think mine is so much more broader than just one unit. You know, I really feel like we’re really comfortable with who we are, in terms of our personnel for the maybe the first time that I’ve been here that obviously some some units got more experienced and some units have less and, but I think I’m more interested in, in the growth of our football team in areas like our physical development, you know, can growing up now into being the most physically developed we possibly can be, you know, we added a obviously a new strength coach, new nutritionist, you know, the ability to maybe enhance and some of those margins that are really critical for us to be successful here at Iowa State.

You know, we talked about growing fundamentally, you know, Yeah, yeah, look at the youth that played a year ago. And you know, when things get the hardest it becomes the fundamentals that become the difference in those margins to have success or have failure. And now taking “what did we do?” Well, what did we do well, and how do we go back to square one and fundamentally enhance ourselves? And and then, you know, the ability to, you know, find out with some of our young guys that maybe didn’t get all those opportunities yet, who’s ready to get into our schemes and have the ability to grow and earn trust that they can go help our team be successful?

And so I really think those three areas are really where my focus is, and obviously the offensive line is an area where you lose some some veteran players but I do think the thing that’s exciting for me is maybe the most consistent player that we’ve had since I’ve been here is Trevor Downing. And, you know, you talk about a young man that’s got all the potential and really played at a high level, redshirt freshman last year, and then a guy like Collin Newell, you know, a year ago was that same thing. For our offensive line was consistent steady as a redshirt freshman and then had to deal with adversity this year with an injury and came back and played his best football game maybe of his career against Notre Dame in that bowl game.

And so I think it’s great because that offensive line it’s not we’re replacing five starters here you got two guys that have been number one, maybe the two most consistent players we’ve had on that offensive line since we’ve been here that are really back to usher in the growth of now these young guys around them. So I think excited about that group. Really excited to watch it grow together. But you know, I think for me, maybe more than anything this spring is taking maybe the the, the 20,000 foot view of this football program and watching it grow and some of those areas I think are real critical to our success.

JON:

How does Breece Hall continue to elevate his game as he enters his sophomore season and what’s kind of the plan with Jirehl Brock there, too?

COACH CAMPBELL:

I think that’s it’s that’s a fascinating room because you see Breece who, you know, Breece, you gotta remember he got that spring practice and you know, he got a little bit of a head start at times. And, you know, I was so proud of what he did for our team because when he stepped in as a starter really kind of halfway through that West Virginia game and really never relinquished the role as a starting tailback here.

He was a difference maker for us. And even when Brock [Purdy] got injured, which, you know, early in that West Virginia game, we were able to rely on Breece to kind of steady the ship for our offense. And I thought that was really big. And, you know, I think the thing that’s exciting for us is, you saw Jirehl Brock, really nipping at Breece Hall’s heels and everybody’s heels in that running back room, you know, even into the TCU game and you know, through the middle part of the season because of his attitude, his effort, his toughness, and I think Jirehl’s a guy that brings a whole different mentality to that running back room in a lot of ways and so it’s gonna be fascinating to watch his growth continue because now he’s almost where where Bruce was. You know, by the time he stepped in and played as we kind of stepped back on the field for spring practice, he he’s a guy that’s been here now. He’s been seasoned in the weight room, he’s got season football experience.

Where’s that take him? Where’s it take his confidence? And now where can he separate himself in terms of, you know, playing time and helping this football team be successful?

JON:

You’re now the third longest tenured coach in Big 12 football. Is that kind of bizarre to hear that?

COACH CAMPBELL: 

Yeah, probably. Probably not a not a great stat for Big 12 football in a way. You know, I think those are things that you hear that that it’s almost crazy to think, you know, and still, you know, grateful for that opportunity. You know, it’s I think it probably tells you how crazy our profession is, and in all honesty, and but, you know, certainly I’m grateful to be that and certainly grateful to give consistency to to not only our program, but certainly that consistency of our staff as well around this. I think that’s been huge.

JON:

Seems like whenever there’s an opening, your name pops up. For you, does that get frustrating a bit that people just think you’re going to up and leave Ames, Iowa for the next big job opening?

COACH CAMPBELL:

You know, I think that was something that, you know, even maybe going into this year, I felt like boy, we’ve moved on from that, and maybe in some ways probably discredited the impact that that can have not not so much on me, but maybe everybody else around you, and probably failed in addressing that with our own players at times, you know, when when it needed to be done.

But, you know, I think from my end, those were things that that’s the even anybody saying something nice about you is because what’s going on with your team, and the reality is continuing to educate your team on those things, but also continuing to reaffirm who you are and, you know, I think the one positive from our end is you’re talking about going into your five in a lot of those people that may be said that you weren’t going to be there. They’ve already changed jobs or they’ve, they’ve done something different.

So, I just think being considered, staying loyal to who you are and what you say you’re going to do. And, again, actions speak so much louder than words and you hope your actions continue to be a positive for you for your program for your kids and your coaching staff moving forward.

JON:

As we look at the 2020 season here, how big is the Iowa- Iowa State game for you guys as a staff?

COACH CAMPBELL:

Well, I think the the biggest thing I would say is obviously, you know, what that game means and obviously coming into this state and building our own program. I think you certainly understand the importance for both universities for both fan bases.

The Alumni in both fan bases and certainly both both football programs and, and then you talk just even where our programs at and you know, I think the thing for us is you’ve continued to every year etch away at some of the things that hadn’t been done. And so, you know, obviously that’s another hurdle for our program that a lot of credit to their program and who they been and the consistency they’ve had. But really trying to etch that into our own program of our own consistency and what we want to do and where we want to go.

JON:

You talked about the process all the time, where are you at in the process? Are you where you want to be? Or is it a head, behind? Where? In your mind?

COACH CAMPBELL:

Yeah, you know, I think every year so different and and you know, I think, yeah, we learned a lot about ourselves last year, you know, and the step from good to great, is really challenging. I think sometimes it’s easy to get to good. And it takes, you know, a special team and takes special individuals aligned at the right time at the right place to go to great. And I think that’s a really unique challenge that’s put on our shoulders right now. And obviously, if it was easy, it had been done before here and be you know, then everybody would be able to do it.

But I think that’s the thing that’s so exciting and rewarding and why you continue to measure building a program the right way and not taking shortcuts in the process. And that’s what I’m really proud of, to be honest with you, because I think you’ve still continue to see great growth every year. And, you know, obviously, the win-loss piece, you can look at it from last year and man you’re fractions away from that looking different than it did.

But I think culturally, you saw a great movement. And, you know, it’s it’s not going to happen overnight, we’re going to have to do it the right way here to get it done. And you know, that’s the thing that’s been really exciting and rewarding is we haven’t taken the shortcut ever. We’ve just continued to pound away, evaluate where we’re at, evaluate where those margins are, and then put the next process together. So we can try to maximize our full potential as a football program and as a football team.

JON:

How much pride do you take in seeing the guys participating in events outside of the football program within the community? We saw the special special night with the Tim Tebow foundation stuff the other night that the guys were helping out.

COACH CAMPBELL: 

You know, I think that’s the thing that it’s probably the greatest reward of being an Iowa State. It’s the greatest reward of being in this community is the ability that you have to give back to make a difference. And, you know, I think that’s one of the things that I absolutely love about being here is, so many things get put on student athletes, especially in the world of football.

And yet the greatest journey between 18 and 22 years old that you can learn is who you are as a person. And part of that is this ability to give more yourself than maybe you take from the whole and I think it’s so easy to see why 18 to 22 year olds today, especially in Division One athletics can under can start to think it’s about them. But the reality of it is, it’s about this opportunity to give back in to make a difference and to watch our guys and again, it’s it’s not the, it’s our best players understanding that value and then teaching the young players in our program, how critical it is and what it means to be a Cyclone and be what it means to this community to do it the right way and to be the right person.

Those things I’m really proud of, and watching our kids continue to give back and make a difference in this community will always continue to be a pillar of our success, because this community is really the only reason why we’ve been able to have success. So I think it works hand in hand together and just grateful to be a part of it.

JON:

This season, I brought up name image likeness to you this season, it’s become a topic here in Iowa. One- Do you feel it’s time that college athletes start being able to profit off of what they’re doing at the college ranks? And two- is name and image likeness probably the best route for that?

COACH CAMPBELL:

Yeah, I just I think the more you study on it, the more you read on it. I think the problem is, is there isn’t a definite and I don’t even know if there’s a side of a fence to sit on. Because I don’t think we we thought of all the ramifications that come with these challenges is- I think the biggest thing you said is, is there a way to continue to take a piece of the pie and be able to spread that to our student athletes?

And I think the answer to that is yes. What is the best way to do that? I think that’s the challenge. And that’s something that again, we instantly the boy, yes, this is the best way to do it or this is the best way to do it. Every every decision that you make has severe ramifications. And so I think that I think as we continue to educate ourselves and people think outside the box, I think there is a way for that piece of the pie, you know, to be able to be distributed. And, you know, we started small with cost of attendance a couple years ago, and I think that made a great impact. But how do you continue to keep a collegian model?

How do you continue to to understand what the student athlete is getting? And how do you continue to take this money that’s coming into these universities into these these schools and continue to say, “Well, what is the best way to distribute that in the betterment of everybody involved?” And part of everybody involved is the student athlete and so, you know, I don’t again, I think the education for me of the name, image and likeness. I think there’s some scary things in there that certainly maybe go against the model of collegiate athletics and what do I love?

I love the opportunity to the 18 to 22 year a two year old age range of developing young people in continuing to watch them grow. And, you know, I’ve said, “Man, if I want to coach professional football, then I’ll go coach pro football.” What I what I don’t think we want to get to is a model where it’s professional athletics or minor league athletics. And I think there’s a market for that. And there’s a way to get to that. But I think within the the collegiate model, I don’t I don’t think that’s the right thing.

JON:

What would you go back and tell 23-year-old Matt Campbell, after everything you’ve gone through experience life in general? It doesn’t have to be football related.

COACH CAMPBELL:

Yeah, well, I think the best thing that I would tell them is, make sure you put yourself around really good people. And if you do that, whatever is meant to be in whatever you’re going to become, you’ll reach your full potential and I think that would be priority number one.

And I just really believe that I think that’s been something for me that, you know, even I think my father taught me that a long time ago is, you know, put your, put yourself around the right people who you hang with who you put yourself around, really is critical to your success. And in you know, I think now sitting back at 40 years old, yes, think, boy, was he right?

And I think you get to that age range at 23. I tell our team all the time, are you are you trying to do something? Are you trying to be somebody and we’re in a society today that with social media and how we see I mean, “I want to be like that person. I want to be like this person.” And and really, you got to look back and see like, what did that person do and sacrifice to get where they wanted to go? And who are they really and you know, and are you trying to do something? Are you trying to be somebody else? And you know, I think that that ability to put yourself around great people and do something that would be my remarks to probably 23 year old Matt Campbell.

JON:

Well, what would you be if you weren’t a football coach?

COACH CAMPBELL:

Oh, I’d probably be a teacher you know, you know, honestly, you know. I, to me, my passion is, again my passion is to watch young people grow in the greatest impacts that I had in my life and a critical time where teachers, educators, and obviously coaches and so you know, if it wasn’t a football coach, it’d be some something in the world of teaching and something in the world of making a difference and trying to give back to me. That’s my, I still love that today more than maybe I even do and I love X’s and O’s like everybody, but I got a great passion for that and finding out the best way to be able to do that in make the biggest impact you possibly can.

JON:

Final two questions I have. One- how important is it being a dad, you know, for you, you know, this time of year you don’t have necessarily the strains of the football season. How important is it taking that time right now?

COACH CAMPBELL:

Yeah, I think probably my greatest growth of understanding that value, you know, you watch and you talk about some of these young men that come in your program that impact you. And you say, Boy, you know, some of the guys, I gotta figure it out and you’re like, “Man, I hope I can be as great a parent as maybe their parents are.” And you’ll watch some of these young people that have come in from tough situations and you, and then you say, “Boy, the number one job, this job is really important.”

But really, the number one job that I have is to make sure that you raise those four children that are sitting at home that you’re responsible for. And I think it can get skewed really fast in our profession, and probably in our world today. But I think something as I’ve grown and I’ve watched my own children grow, understanding how critical it is to be in their lives to be a father and to be a part of of their journey and making sure we’re racing them the right way.

JON:

What is the goal for this upcoming season and then long term personally, what is your goal?

COACH CAMPBELL:

Yeah, you know, I think the biggest thing for for us in this upcoming season is is to be able to take what we saw from that video tape some of those margins and really do a great job of continuing to fill those in where it leads and what it becomes. I don’t know, but but having the ability to correct some of those areas for us. That’s that’s goal number one. I think is we sit down and reflect over the next, you know, the next, you know, month and a half, and we see who this team becomes through spring practice and see what this team becomes in the summer and through fall camp, I think will will maybe have ability to see, can we reach our full potential and what does our full potential really look like?

I think the second piece for myself is probably no different than our team and that’s reach your full potential. You know, I think even this year, you said, “Boy, how do you become a better head football coach,” you know, like, what you’ve done in who you are, like, you got to continue to fill in your own margins. And I think, you know, that’s what’s great about you know, reevaluating yourself every year because there’s areas I have to continue to grow and still a lot of growth for me, to be able to give our team and our coaches to be, the opportunity to be the best version of themselves. They can be, it’s got to start with me and gotta be willing to continue to change and continue to evolve. So, you know, I’ve certainly looked forward to it and this is a great time of year to continue to look yourself in the mirror and be able to evolve as a head football coach.