Linebacker Joel Lanning returns an interception for a touchdown at the spring football game at Jack Trice Stadium on April 8, 2017. (Photo credit: Ryan Young)
Joel Lanning knows a thing or two about scoring touchdowns. He’s personally taken the ball into the end zone 15 times during his Iowa State career.
In Saturday’s spring game, Lanning found the end zone again, but this time was not like all the others. The 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pound redshirt senior wasn’t running for a score out of the “Joeldozer” package or on a zone read.
The Ankeny-native, and Iowa State’s new starting mike linebacker, was scoring on a 37-yard pick-six after intercepting Cyclone quarterback Jacob Park — the man who took Lanning’s starting spot behind center last fall.
While the linebacker position is still somewhat new for Lanning, finding the end zone is not unfamiliar.
“I really don’t even know if I was in the right spot or whatever,” Lanning, who finished the game with four tackles to go along with his interception, said. “We were running a blitz and they were doing some things, crossers and stuff so I’m just picking up the crosser coming across the middle and I got lucky and just made the play on it.”
Lanning’s touchdown was likely the highlight of a day that is generally more full of drinking in the lots than huge plays on the gridiron. It can be somewhat tough to really take anything away from the Cyclones’ final scrimmage of the spring.
With that said, Saturday’s game did further justify Lanning’s move to the other side of the ball in the mind of head coach Matt Campbell.
“That was pretty good, no,” Campbell asked the media with a laugh after the game when Lanning’s name came up. “I think Joel’s a guy that got better every day. I told one of my trusted friends a couple months ago that this guy had a chance to be pretty special and so the reality of it is the guy’s a great athlete. I wouldn’t have ever put Joel in a position to fail. Joel’s a guy that has elite athletic ability, especially for big skill players. He just kept getting better every day. It was great to see him have some success today, but I could be honest with you and go watch the film from 14 practices and see him having that same kind of success.”
There’s no doubt Lanning still has areas in which he needs to improve before the Northern Iowa Panthers roll into Jack Trice Stadium for the 2017 season opener. He said while he’s made progress in his reads, he still needs to adjust to seeing pulling linemen or fitting off of fullbacks.
Making those improvements are how Lanning will spend the next few weeks and the summer months before fall camp. Campbell won’t bet against him getting the job done.
“That’s a hard transition to make and I’m not silly,” Campbell said. “ I know the work ethic it’s going to take to get where he needs to go so he can play at that rate consistently, but I wouldn’t doubt Joel Lanning.”
Saturday’s spring game proved Lanning’s not a quarterback anymore. He’s a linebacker — but that doesn’t mean he can’t still find the end zone.
“I like the end zone,” Lanning said. “I’m trying to score whenever I can.”