By Michael DeBates, Iowa State Athletics Communications
For native Iowans, playing at Iowa State is about more than just playing college football at the highest level. It’s about pride. It’s about playing for something bigger than you. It’s about stepping on the field on Saturdays, knowing that everyone in your local community has their eyes on you. Not only are you representing your university when you put on your team’s colors, you’re representing your hometown and the area you grew up in.
Fourty-eight players on Iowa State’s 2013 roster hail from the state of Iowa. Several of those homegrown Cyclones have played integral roles throughout their careers in helping the ISU program get to where it’s at today. Iowans like punter Kirby Van Der Kamp and running back Jeff Woody both know the importance of what it means to put on the cardinal and gold every Saturday.
“This place is trending upward fast,” Woody said. “As an Iowa native, we take pride in having that blue collar mentality. We’re a very tight knit family and being able to be a part of that is special. The Iowa public is starting to get behind us, picking up a lot of momentum and positive support.”
Woody, a native of Pleasant Hill, Iowa, has played a major role in the ISU backfield since 2010, playing in 39 games. He scored arguably the biggest touchdown ever at Iowa State in 2011 when he reached the endzone from four-yards out in double overtime to knock off No. 2 Oklahoma State.
With fan support at an all-time high, it makes playing for Iowa State that much more special for the team’s Iowa natives.
“It’s awesome to see all the support we have and to know that I’ve been a part of all of this,” Van Der Kamp said. “They see what we’ve been doing and support us in every way possible.”
Van Der Kamp has been a household name for the Cyclones since his freshman season in 2010 when he earned first-team freshman All-America honors from Rivals.com. The West Des Moines native’s 42.8 yard career punting average is No. 2 in school history. He was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award in 2012 and was named to the watch list again this season.
Ames native Cory Morrissey, a junior college transfer from Iowa Western, has a different connection with the fans that pack Jack Trice Stadium every Saturday. He grew up an Iowa State fan and was a regular at home games when he was younger.
“The fan support means everything to all of us, especially when you walk into Jack Trice and its completely packed even on the hill sides,” Morrissey, who graduated from Gilbert High School, said. “As a player from Ames, it means even more because you remember back when you were one of those fans in the stands awe struck thinking to yourself, ‘man I hope that’s me someday.’”
Morrissey heads into his second year of eligibility as one of the bright spots on the defensive side of the ball. He started his first career game Aug. 31 against UNI. In his first career game in 2012 against Tulsa, Morrissey impressed, registering a forced fumble and two tackles for a loss.
Another aspect that makes playing for Iowa State special for its instate players, is the fact that their parents and family have the opportunity to support them every Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium. Each player is allotted four tickets for each home game and they will almost always go to family members.
“It means everything to me that my family can be at every game,” senior guard Ethan Tuftee said. “I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve given tickets to someone other than family. Anytime I have to try to find more tickets that teammates aren’t using it makes me happy to know I have so much support. A lot of the other guys on the team feel the same way. It’s a really good feeling to have your family at the game.”
Tuftee, a Davenport, Iowa native, has made 23 career starts for the Cyclones, good for No. 3 among active players on this year’s roster. He has been in Ames since the beginning of the Paul Rhoads era.
“It’s been great to be a part of everything we’ve been doing here at Iowa State,” Tuftee said. “I came on my visit here and really liked it. The visit definitely broadened my horizons. I remember the early days and it has been good to kind of change the tides a little bit.”
Homegrown Iowa talent has been something that has played a major role in helping Rhoads build Iowa State into the program it is today. They’ve been a key cog in Rhoads’ success and will undoubtedly remain very important in the program’s future.