Iowa State Football has had many greats to take the field at Jack Trice Stadium. Troy Davis, Seneca Wallace, Jake Knott, AJ Klein, Allen Lazard, and many more. Only one may stick out for many years to come and that is Joel Lanning.
Lanning may have not have been the sexiest name to grace the 2013 recruiting class that also included Jake Campos, but ever since stepping on to campus at Iowa State, Lanning has done whatever it took to leave Iowa State Football in a better place than what he found it.
Fast forward to 2017. Iowa State football came into the season after four straight losing seasons. Iowa State needed to see progression more than ever. The Cyclones would go on to rattle off an 8 win season, including wins over two top five teams. The man leading the charge of it all was Joel Lanning.
The quarterback-turned-All-American-linebacker, Lanning led the team with over 110 tackles and came in second on the team in tackles for loss. Did I mention he was a quarterback? On top of his tremendous defensive effort this season, Lanning rushed for two touchdowns while throwing for another.
Playing two positions in the current age of college football is rare. Names like Myles Jack, Budda Baker, and Adoree Jackson are some of the most recent ones. Lanning thrusted his name among some of the greats with his effort this season. Dick Butkus, Jim Thorpe, Champ Bailey, and Chuck Bednarik are all college football legends who also played multiple positions in their college careers.
Ultimately, Joel Lanning could have walked away from Iowa State when his time at quarterback was done. He didn’t. He stayed the course and met with Matt Campbell, looking for any way to contribute in the 2017 season. Middle linebacker came calling his name, and he did not disappoint. Lanning is a prime example of a team-first player. He has continually put aside his personal agenda to better Iowa State. For a player to play over 900 snaps this season, there was never any doubt Lanning gave 100% on every play.
NFL scouts have noticed the effort from Joel Lanning. One NFL scout has stated, “He has that charismatic intangible of working because he wants to work and be better, not because he has to. With some players these days, that's about as rare as it gets." Those intangibles trickled down onto his teammates, and the Cyclones responded accordingly in 2017, which ultimately ended with a Liberty Bowl victory.
Allen Lazard, who many may argue is the greatest Cyclone, said it best after the Liberty Bowl on Saturday. “To me, Joel Lanning is the greatest Cyclone of all time. From everything he’s done for this program and the sacrifice he made, not only switching positions, but switching both sides of the ball.”
Lanning may not have the stats that Troy Davis or Allen Lazard compiled. He may not have been a Heisman finalist. He may never be a perennial Pro Bowler in the NFL. Many may call someone the greatest based on stats and on-field accolades. For myself, this is not the case.
Joel is the greatest Cyclone ever based on his leadership, and being at the front of a culture-changing time in Iowa State Football. At the end of the day, that is far more important than compiling stats.
Iowa State will miss Joel Lanning, the greatest Cyclone ever.