AMES — A sliver of sunshine stretched across the horizon and Allen Lazard knew precisely what the dawn of a new day meant.
An early wake-up call. Grueling weightlifting sessions he did not enjoy. A necessary evil, not a ritual to embrace.
“Starting out in high school I used to hate waking up early in the morning,” said Lazard, who nonetheless starred at Urbandale and became one of the nation’s most sought-after wide receivers before signing at Iowa State. “But Tim DeBrink, who runs the strength and conditioning program at Urbandale, he did a great job.”
If the name Tim DeBrink sounds familiar, it’s because it most certainly should. Before teaching top-level high school players such as Lazard what it takes to maximize physical potential, he’d absorbed the same lessons as a standout defensive end for the Cyclones in the early 2000s under Dan McCarney.
“Looking back on it, I wish I would have spent more time in there, because I realize how much dedication he put into the school and helping me develop,” said Lazard, whose developing quite nicely himself as ISU’s leading receiver entering Saturday’s 11 a.m. Big 12 home opener against Kansas. “I credit a lot to him as a younger guy.”
Fast forward to the end of Lazard’s true freshman season with the Cyclones. He’d finished second on the team in receiving yards (593) and catches (45) while earning ESPN.com Big 12 all-underclassmen honors.
All of that added up to merely “all right” in Lazard’s estimation, especially when factoring in the team’s 2-10 record. So the 6-5, 223-pound Lazard knew more growth was required — and it began in the area he once “hated.” He attacked, rather than tolerating, bench presses, power cleans, squats and other strength-building lifts. By the end of the offseason, his numbers had shot up to 325 pounds on the bench, 405 on squat and 301 on power clean.
“Roughly 40-50 pound jumps,” Lazard said.
That’s across the board — and the added strength is showing up on the field. Lazard leads ISU (1-2) with 15 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown. He’s averaged 17 yards in six punt returns, merging his trademark sure-handedness with increased elusiveness.
“I think he’s stronger, I think he’s quicker, I think he’s faster,” Cyclones Coach Paul Rhoads said. “The mental piece is he has a better understanding of what it is we’re trying to accomplish, but he was pretty solid a year ago. I’ve always talked about his maturity as a young man and that hasn’t decreased.”
Lazard and his fellow wide receivers will try to shake free early and often against the downtrodden Jayhawks (0-3). Kansas has given up nine passing plays of 25 yards or more and all of them have come in first or second down situations.
“I think we can still improve a lot and hopefully make a big jump this week,” Lazard said.
Just like he’s done in the weight room, thanks to lessons learned, past and present.
“It’s just a great stress reliever,” Lazard said of his growing appreciation for lifting. “Just going through the season we went through last year, I din’t want to go into this season knowing I could have put more work and more effort in. I don’t want to feel like I’ve let my team down.”