AMES — As a youngster, Nick Fett drove a golf cart into a country club sand trap.
As a walk-on tackle-turned-guard, the Iowa State lineman helped push running back Mike Warren into the corridor of history as a 1,000-yard rusher.
Not a bad approach shot for the first-time starter in last week’s near-miss against Oklahoma State.
“Graded out very well,” said Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads, whose team (3-7, 2-6) faces Kansas State (3-6, 0-6) at 11 a.m. Saturday in Manhattan, Kan. “He was our co-lineman of the game as a matter of fact. Graded out at 82 percent on all 61 snaps that he played. Really played a heck of a ball game.”
Fett’s starting status may be short-lived (for now), but that doesn’t make his journey any less remarkable. Before last Saturday, the 6-7, 313-pound junior had not taken a snap in a game situation other than PAT’s and field goals.
"The only way a guy like him can come in and have a quality performance is because he’s got a great attitude," offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy said of Fett.
Now the future’s bright for the the Audubon native who competed in five sports in high school — even though he may be relegated to a reserve role if senior guard Oni Omoile is healthy enough to play against the Wildcats.
“I think with Oni and Wendell (Taiese) graduating, right now he potentially goes into spring at No. 1 at one of the guard spots,” Rhoads said.
How’d Fett get here? Hard work. Desire and devotion. The usual things. But he carved out his own cart path along the way. Nothing comes easy for walk-ons. Even tryouts can be as hard to read as a green at Augusta. Every step up the ladder can be dramatic, fateful, funny, strange.
“(Division II) Morningside had a package, but I just decided I wanted to go to school for — all they had was business, so I was like, ‘I want to be in agriculture and come here and do that,’” Fett said. “‘If I can play football great. If I can’t, I’ll be a student.’”
He can play football all right. First he needed to try out in the fall of 2012. The experience proved interesting and nerve-wracking.
“We did a 40, we did a pro agility, we did a broad jump and then they put us through some offensive drills — just kind of to see how you move, what you did and apparently I made the cut,” Fett said.
So did future special teams stars such as Josh Jahlas and Mitchell Harger. Scout team reps followed. Fett finally climbed into the two-deep before getting the definitive starting call a day before the game against the Cowboys.
“Coach (Brandon) Blaney just looked at me and was like, ‘Are you ready to go? Are you nervous yet?” Fett said.
He didn’t show any jitters. On his first drive, Fett helped plow the path to a touchdown. After Joel Lanning finished off the possession by rambling 24 yards, bruised, often-treated and tough senior tackle Brock Dagel smiled at Fett.
“(He) was like, ‘How about that for a first start?’” Fett recalled.
Better than most. And to think Fett considered football his worst sport in high school. He placed at state wrestling. He took 11th in the state golf meet.
“I was a decent wrestler and golfer,” Fett said. “Then I played football. I kind of had the size for it, so I thought I’d try it out. I love football.”
As for golf, it helped mold his mental toughness. Fett said despite his size, he doesn’t drive the ball as far as one would think. 300 yards on a good day, if it’s straight, not winding — like his path to starting offensive lineman and that first totally different drive at Jack Trice Stadium.
“A lot of nerves were hitting my right there,” Fett said. “Then as soon as the first snap was done, I kind of settled down and got into it. Moved on from there.”