Oct 6, 2018; Stillwater, OK, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy (15) passes the ball while defended by Oklahoma State Cowboys defensive tackle Trey Carter (99) during the first half at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell knew he’d recruited and landed an unusually heady, thoughtful and multi-talented quarterback in Brock Purdy.
Smart, confident and groomed for success, Purdy acclimated to college life quickly — and simply starred in his first college game Saturday at Oklahoma State.
But now that the true freshman has truly taken off — and likely to receive his first start in Saturday’s 6 p.m. showdown with No. 6 West Virginia at Jack Trice Stadium — the importance of remaining mentally grounded becomes heightened.
It’s that even-keel virtue Campbell extols ceaselessly and all signs point to Purdy’s strict adherence to that rock-steady principle.
“Brock was one of the more enjoyable recruiting processes that we’ve had,” said Campbell, whose Cyclones (2-3, 1-2 Big 12) will try to hand the Mountaineers (5-0, 3-0) their first loss of the season. “I think similar to knowing (former, but still-injured starter) Kyle Kempt at a fairly young age, the quality of person that you’re getting in terms of maturity, what was expected of you in your high school football program, knowing your background and having real, meaningful conversations at 17 or 18 years old, that’s hard to find today.”
Campbell and his staff discovered it in Purdy, who set a single-season Arizona state high school record with 57 touchdown passes while leading his team (Gilbert Perry) to the Conference 6A state title game.
His sample size at the college level remains small, though.
Purdy — who is unavailable to the media this season, per Campbell’s true freshman interview policy — completed 18 of 23 passes for 318 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in last Saturday’s 48-42 triumph in Stillwater. He also rushed for a game-high 83 yards and another touchdown, helping to turn ISU’s once-languishing offense into an unpredictable, uptempo, dual-threat driven portrait of potency.
“All of our quarterbacks bring a different skill set a little bit and all of them are phenomenal,” redshirt freshman center Colin Newell said. “Brock is just really unique. He can run the ball a little bit and he’s having fun out there, so it was fun to see that.”
Fun to watch, too — and a harbinger of things to come.
The Cyclones effectively sealed Saturday’s win on Newell’s snap to Purdy, who launched the ball downfield before getting drilled and found the hands and fleet feet of Tarique Milton for a 60-yard touchdown.
Three freshmen touched the ball. One huge play developed. But it’s back to even keel talk now — for Milton and Purdy and everyone else.
“Just being humble,” Milton, a redshirt freshman, said. “We’ve been playing football a long time. It’s a different level, but it’s the same game. You’ve just got to keep your composure and be humble.”
That seems to be an integral aspect of Purdy’s mental makeup, as well, as Campbell detected early in the recruiting process.
“You could tell there was a great sense of maturity,” Campbell said. “Then you get around the people that were huge impacts in his life — his high school football coach and obviously his parents. You watch him around his mother and his brother and you think, ‘This guy has a lot of those ‘it’ factors.’ Then you see what he’s done academically in the classroom. You go around the school and hear people talk about him. I think those are all collective data — whether it’s a quarterback or any player — that can start to paint the picture of what kind of character or student-athlete you’re getting in your football program. Those are things that hit on all cylinders when he decided to come here and went through that process.”
Now, the process turns back to the grinding, but mandatory matter of getting better every day.
Saturday was not a crowning achievement — not for Purdy, nor for the Cyclones.
It simply could be the start of something memorable, as long as egos remain earth-bound rather than cloud-based.
“We’ll continue to grow offensively as we continue to find an identity to who we are and what we want to become,” Campbell said. “We’ve played five games and four different offenses in a lot of ways because we’re trying to continue to give our football team the best opportunity to be successful. Obviously, with Brock and his first extended action, there is a lot he can continue to clean up and continue to work on. We’ll have to continue to do that if we want to continue to get better and he knows that. He’s a competitor and a guy that wants to continue to get better.”