Iowa State sports columnist Randy Peterson and sports reporter Tommy Birch look at Iowa State’s week off to recuperate and get ready for Texas.
Rodney White/The Register
AMES, Ia. – Tom Herman maybe had a premonition back when he was running Iowa State’s offense, back when he was the play-calling coordinator for two of the biggest victories in Cyclones’ history.
Sometime while recruiting during the 2011 season, he ran across a dominating quarterback at Ankeny High School named Joel Lanning.
“Joel was a tough son of a gun,” Herman once told me. “He was an uber competitor.
“There was a lot of talk that he might be a safety, a slot receiver, or even maybe a linebacker.”
You’ve gotta love the twists and turns of college athletics – the way a very talented player can go from starting quarterback to starting linebacker in a span of just more than 10 months …
And the way a guy like Tom Herman can go from a $250,000-a-year offensive coordinator for the Cyclones, to making $5.25 million in the first year of a five-year Texas contract that’s worth a total of $28.75 million.
But here we sit, a handful of days before Thursday’s Iowa State-Texas Big 12 opener at 7 p.m. at Jack Trice Stadium – Herman’s fourth game as the 1-2 Longhorns’ head coach and Lanning’s fourth game as the 2-1 Cyclones’ starting linebacker.
You bet, to borrow a word former Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud said Herman occasionally used.
“In one respect, coach Herman taught me the English language – in the quarterback meeting room,” Arnaud told me last Friday.
“He’s one of the most intelligent guys I’ve ever been around – he used words like plethora and catawampus when he was talking to us.”
The last game Herman coached inside The Jack was in 2011. You’ve probably heard of that one: Cyclones 37, second-ranked Oklahoma State 31 in double overtime on a November Friday night in which Iowa State affected the national championship.
The previous season, he called plays for the Cyclones’ first-ever win at Texas.
“I remember after the game — we’d never won in Austin — I saw my mentor, Greg Davis, get in the elevator to go down to the locker room,” Herman said of the former Texas (and Iowa) offensive coordinator.
“I remember the look on his face.”
Herman told me this (and a lot more) during an interview in his new office last February – three months after replacing Charlie Strong. It was an unseasonably warm day in Austin when we talked – very much unlike his first day on the job in Ames in 2009.
“It was cold, man,” Herman said. “But man, I made it — I’m a coordinator in the Big 12. Paul Rhoads seemed like a great guy, and together, we were going to get this thing turned around.
“I popped out of bed my very first morning on the job, even without an alarm. We had a staff meeting; I was rip-roaring ready to go.
“I was getting ready, and the TV was on in my hotel room. I heard the weather person say the day’s high was going to be minus-4.
“I’m like, the high temperature is a negative number. I didn’t even know that could happen – and every year I was there, it’s like, ‘Man, this is brutal.’”
It’ll be significantly warmer Thursday. Probably in the high 60s, maybe in the 70s, at kickoff. Perfect for a game that includes Herman as a head coach and Lanning as a starting linebacker.
Talk about catawampus …
The first time Herman became involved with Iowa State, he expected to call offensive plays under one coach, yet ended up working for another.
A change was needed. Gene Chizik had to improve his Iowa State football staff after winning just two Big 12 games between 2007 and 2008.
The offense wasn’t very good. Attendance at Jack Trice Stadium wasn’t good.
What’s a coach to do?
Hire Tom Herman, that’s what.
For all his Iowa State faults, Chizik got this one right. He got Herman to agree to be his offensive coordinator after the 2008 season.
That’s about the time of Chizik’s fly-by-night move to become Auburn’s coach.
Herman had only agreed to work at Iowa State. He hadn’t signed a contract, but it was such a sure thing it would happen after he was done coaching Rice in the 2008 Texas Bowl, that the paperwork had already been drawn up.
However, when Chizik suddenly disappeared, Herman became an offensive coordinator in limbo — and this is where Jamie Pollard entered the picture.
At some point shortly after hiring Rhoads, Iowa State’s athletics director asked his new head coach:
“Well, since the contract’s already drawn up, do you want to talk to this guy?”
The rest his history. Herman is the Texas head coach. Lanning is Iowa State’s top middle linebacker. And this slice of college football Thursday night is …
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @RandyPete.
Source: Des Moines Register
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