In February of 2014, Allen Lazard signed the dotted line officially making him a member of Iowa State’s recruiting class. On one hand, it wasn’t surprising that Lazard chose a Big 12 school just north of where he went to high school. It certainly helped that his father played football there too. To those not within ear shot of the sirens blaring from Jack Trice Stadium on game day, his decision seemed puzzling to put it mildly.
You see, Allen Lazard wasn’t the type of player Iowa State usually signed, let alone even targeted on the recruiting trail. The receiver from Urbandale was the very definition of “blue-chip” recruit, and unless you are playing NCAA Football on the Xbox or PlayStation, those players don’t choose to come to Iowa State.
With offers from Notre Dame, Oregon, and Nebraska, it seemed Lazard could probably attend any school he wanted to attend, and he did. Iowa State University. Cyclone fans were obviously overjoyed at his decision, although some more relieved that an expectation of theirs had been met. Personally, I wouldn’t have blamed him for going to a traditional power. After all, the clock is ticking on the bodies of football players and they only get one crack at the collegiate football experience.
The purpose of these words isn’t to re-hash his recruitment process or tell everyone about that one time a high school all-american decided to play football at Iowa State. We all know the story. The point is to recognize and thank him for doing so.
Coming into this season, I wanted my Cyclones to make it to a bowl game. This is no different than any other year, but for one reason I was hoping more so than usual. That reason? Allen Lazard.
I have a hard time grasping just how difficult the decision was for him to make as a teenager. Were there second thoughts after the first couple seasons when the wins were few and far between and the coach he committed to was shown the door? I’m sure there were.
Think of it this way. If we had chosen to run a list of the top ten wins in the Allen Lazard era we would have had two vacant spots. Woof.
That is right, it would have only been a list of eight, with highlights of beating teams like Northern Iowa and Kansas.
How many of us would have jumped ship?
With a coaching change on the horizon, few would have blamed Allen Lazard for transferring and giving it a go at a perennial power like Notre Dame. He gave the Iowa State thing a shot, it just didn’t work out. Not too many people could have been bitter about that.
Instead, he stuck it out.
Eventually, the process loved him and his teammates back. It’s fitting that as Allen Lazard takes the field at Jack Trice Stadium for one last time, him and his teammates will run onto the field as a nationally ranked squad in hot pursuit of a Big 12 championship.
Whether they win or lose on Saturday, Allen Lazard’s decision to stay at home in Ames and play for the Cyclones helped make November home games meaningful once again. You won’t hear about tickets that can’t be given away, and few seats will be left empty.
There will be something on the line for this Cyclone football team. Something more so than we could have ever imagined just four years ago.
When Lazard walks off the field for the last time Saturday many will remember him for the catches, the touchdowns and his decision to stay at home as a blue chip recruit. My hope is just as many recognize the character, patience, and persistence it took as a teenager to be a leader for a program that seemed to have no direction.
These attributes, combined with an incredible athletic gift, have made him a Cyclone that we can all be proud of.
In seasons past, football season had become a way of passing the time until basketball season. An opportunity to socialize six to seven Saturdays each year. The culture has changed and the expectations have risen.
Iowa State can compete with the Oklahomas of the world. Iowa State can enter the College Football Playoff discussion. Iowa State can have high expectations that are realistic.
Can’t is no longer a word I feel comfortable using with Iowa State football.
The perfect culmination to Lazard’s tenure in Ames would be Iowa State’s first Big 12 championship. I didn’t used to believe this was possible, but I certainly do now.
Thank you for bringing back hope.
Thank you for leading by example.
Thank you for choosing Iowa State.
Thank you, Mr. Allen Lazard