AMES — A visibly larger Allen Lazard strolled into the Jacobson Building Monday to briefly meet the media.
The highly-coveted 6-5, 215-pound Iowa State freshman from Urbandale wore a T-shirt that read: “Beat Johnston.”
Talk about a “team-first” guy …
“They beat us,” said Lazard, a football (obviously) and basketball (stands to reason) standout for Urbandale High School until he graduated in late May. “So, I’ve got to wear this for the baseball team.”
That Lazard, 18, deeply connects his prep past to his soon-to-be Big 12 present is not remotely surprising.
He’s been, then and now, intensely loyal to his teammates — and that’s one of several reasons he took to ISU Director of Strength and Conditioning Yancy McKnight’s summer workout program with relish.
“I’ve got to earn my respect from the older kids, the coaches,” said Lazard, who said he probably added five pounds of muscle through his summer toil. “And I’ve got to earn a starting spot and playing time, just like everyone else.”
For now, that means he takes snaps with the third team offense.
It’s where he belongs at this point, offensive coordinator Mark Mangino said.
“We’ll bring him along slowly,” Mangino said. “We’re not going to rush him into anything. As he gets more comfortable with what we’re doing, we’ll see where it progresses. But right now he’s just like every other freshman in training camp. He’s wide-eyed. He’s trying to learn. He’s a good student of the game. He works at it. We’ll see where it takes us.”
It’s a process.
Lazard’s an unquestionably elite talent who passed on Notre Dame, Iowa, Nebraska and others to join a Cyclones program that already included his brother, Anthony.
His father, Kevin, played defensive back at ISU from 1990-93.
So he’s a “legacy” athlete, but determined to make his own lasting mark — an ambitious task he knows won’t be accomplished overnight.
“(It’s) a lot faster,” Lazard said of the speed he encountered as fall camp started. “Especially because coming from Urbandale, you only have about 45 guys on the team. Everyone’s tired. But here, we’ve got depth, so they tell you you’re running or you’re not going to play.”
Wide receiver already looked to be a strong position group for the Cyclones, with or without Lazard’s commitment.
Junior Quenton Bundrage emerged as a prime big-play threat and tied ISU’s single-season mark for touchdown catches with nine in 2013.
Then there’s the shifty Jarvis West, transfer D’Vario Montgomery (who, like Lazard, was a four-star recruit and stands 6-5), promising sophomores Dondre Daley and P.J. Harris, and preseason all Big-12 tight end E.J. Bibbs …
“I could go on,” said quarterback Grant Rohach, who started the final four games last season. “It’s relieving to see all the talent that we have on the field, as a quarterback.”
It also lights a fire.
Lazard’s well aware seeing the field will depend upon his ability to shorten the learning curve all freshmen face.
Letting up even once isn’t an option.
And his history suggests it never happens anyway.
“You can’t really take any plays off, because there’s always one guy behind you,” Lazard said. “If you take a play off, he’s going to beat you and get that starting spot or playing time before you do.”
So the key word for Lazard is patience.
That goes for fans and we in the media, too.
“I don’t really care what everyone else says,” Lazard said. “I’ve got my own personal goals.”
And that list of goals?
“It’s personal,” he added.
As it should be.