When you think of Iowa State running backs from the last 5 years, you might think of guys like David Montgomery, Breece Hall, Jirehl Brock, Sheldon Croney, maybe even Mike Warren. One guy has been in the running backs room throughout all of that. A blue-collar, process-loving kid whose only intentions were to make everyone around him better.
Rory Walling was an under-recruited linebacker from Des Moines East. Hell, when I looked up his recruiting profile they say that he didn’t have any schools “interested” in him. Now, there are two kinds of coaches in college football: coaches that want a guy like Rory Walling and liars.
Matt Campbell has always preached about “The Process” and this idea that if you buy into the process, the process will always love you back. There’s no way of knowing when the process will love you back, but you have to be ready for it to love you back. Rory had worked his tail off for 3 seasons, coming on in 2019 where he had 11 tackles and a fumble recovery while appearing in all 13 games.
In 2020, Rory had his moment where the process loved him back. He was the undisputed leader of the Iowa State special teams unit, and it would show in one of the greatest plays in Iowa State football history. In a game that really decided whether the Cyclones would play in their first Big 12 title game or not, Rory was all over a fake punt from Texas.
Rory Walling sniffs out the fake punt. Big play for the Cyclones.— Cyclone Football (@CycloneFB) November 27, 2020
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A play that the entire special teams unit was really designed to stop all year, but hadn’t seen it until game number 9 of 10 in a COVID-shortened season. It was the synapses of Rory’s career: he was never the guy to score a touchdown or get all the attention, but when he was called on he rose to the occasion. An unbelievable play that was huge in Iowa State’s win over Texas.
Fast forward to December 29, 2020: Iowa State is prepping for their Fiesta Bowl against Oregon to close out the best season in school history. After their practice, Coach Campbell told Rory that he would be placed on scholarship for the remainder of his career. Walling had fallen in love with the process, and the process loved him back.
Honored to announce that today after practice, Coach Campbell informed me that I will be put on full scholarship for the remainder of my career! I want to thank my coaches, teammates, family, and cyclone nation for always believing in me and the endless support! pic.twitter.com/8bFF9vw4kP— Rory (@RoryWalling) December 30, 2020
Another highlight from his 2020 season was his moment in the sun, recovering a pooch kick in the Fiesta Bowl and creating (dare I say) one of the most iconic pictures in ISU history. He also was named Honorable Mention All-Big 12 by the coaches in 2020.
Fast forward again to July of 2021: The NCAA ruled that athletes would be allowed to make money off of their name, image, and likeness. Rory was one of the first guys we wanted. I had the privilege to work with Rory and we made a shirt that talked about him being a king, and he told me that wasn’t his style, he was a “we before me” kind of guy. Then he came up with the idea that “Coach Campbell always told me ‘If you commit to the process, eventually, just maybe, the process will love you back,” and that was the most perfect quote I could attach to Rory Walling. He also came to me with this idea to make a shirt that all of the money made off of it would go towards a charity. Specifically a military appreciation shirt. He called me at about 11:30 at night to tell me this idea and I was so excited for him to want to do this I think I had it done by about 2 am and he probably thought I was a psycho for blowing up his phone at 2 am about a shirt. Anyway, all the credit in the world for Rory putting his own ego aside and wanting to help veterans. Those shirts, with the words “We Got Your 6” send all of the money to the Puppy Jake Foundation, a charity that helps veterans get service dogs. (Buy Rory’s military appreciation shirt here, and his process shirt here.)
Rory Walling came in as a guy who maybe didn’t have a chance to see the field, but his leadership and commitment to make everyone around him better every single day will be remembered for years and years after he takes off the cardinal and gold for the last time.
Thank you for showing us all a thing or two about what the process really is and being a great role model for any kid out there.
Thank you, Rory Walling.