SPRING FOOTBALL: The resurgence of Mike Warren

AMES — Mike Warren didn’t have a bad sophomore season.

However after being named the Big 12’s Offensive Freshman of the Year and compiling 1339 yards with five touchdowns as a rookie, 2016 was a bit of a letdown.

Warren, who fought his way through a handful of lingering injuries, saw his role reduced to second-team reps while only reaching 559 yards and three touchdowns last fall.

Some good news: One of the noisiest stories coming out of Ames this spring has been about a change in Mike Warren. He has matured.

Watching true freshman David Montgomery take the majority of your reps at the end of last year can do that to a guy.

“It didn’t go how I wanted but you can only learn and get better,” Warren said. “Adversity brings out the best in people.”

That’s a great attitude. His coaches have clearly seen this transformation, specifically the leader Iowa State’s group of running backs, Lou Ayeni.

“The interesting thing when you have some growing pains and you are growing up and going through the highs and the lows, you really have to sit back and rely on your values and the stuff that made you,” Ayeni explained. “Mike’s attitude is right and his investment is high. He’s in a good place. You’ll now notice on the field that he will mess up and then let me coach him. I notice it when he deals with the freshmen now. He’s not threatened by them. He embraces them. It’s kind of fun for me right now because I feel like I have a group where we have a unit and can be really successful.”

In today’s transfer-heavy world, it is great to hear a story about a young man didn’t take the easy way out. Warren admitted to having the conversation with his parents, but said he never seriously thought about leaving Iowa State.

“You have to finish what you start,” Warren said. “My parents always told me that. Just hearing that voice in the back of my head made me want to stick it out because times are always going to be tough.”

This Iowa State football team really needs him, especially when you consider that sophomore running back Kene Nwangwu recently went down with an Achilles injury that could very well keep him out of the 2017 season.

It’s also worth pointing out that you cannot fake your way to the season that Mike Warren had in 2015. Iowa State’s passing game ended the year ranked 73rd in America. Opposing defenses knew that Warren, who barely played in Iowa State’s first two games that season, was going to get the ball.

“My freshman year I was just out there running around and doing whatever it was.” Warren said. “This year it’s about the team. You have to make it to a bowl game. We have to all give it our best.”

Third string

When it comes to depth, Iowa State is in a little bit of an odd spot with Nwangwu being down.

The battle to be Iowa State’s third-string back is wide-open, but it sounds like one man has the early edge.

“It’s a big spring for Sheldon (Croney),” Ayeni said. “He’s a guy who wants to play and be on the field so here’s the opportunity, especially with Kene being out. We need you to do that. It’s a great opportunity.”