Nov 21, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Jirehl Brock (21) rushes against the Kansas State Wildcats at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Powers-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa State All-American running back Breece Hall’s final recruiting to-do list followed this step-by-step plan:
1. Commit to Matt Campbell’s Cyclones.
2. Text fellow running back recruit Jirehl Brock.
3. See how he responds.
“I was like, yeah, I’m telling (assistant) coach (Nate) Scheelhaase tomorrow that I’m committing as well,” Brock said Tuesday during a conference call with the media. “That’s how we got closer. Then we came on visits and came to games together, and we always talked and made sure we were at the same games so we could kind of build that bond. So Breece and I have known each other since the middle of recruiting. It just so happened that we decided to come here a couple days apart from each other.”
Obviously, that three-step program has worked out well for all involved — though it has taken longer for Brock to carve out a sizable niche on the field.
Hall, the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and ISU’s first-ever unanimous All-American, rushed for a nation-leading 1,572 yards last season while scoring 23 touchdowns (21 rushing, two receiving).
Brock totaled 78 yards on the ground and through the air but became a crucial component to the team’s success in the second half of the season, particularly in pass protection and critical third-down situations.
You could say — along with now-graduated Kene Nwangwu — they complemented each other perfectly. And you’d be right. Now that bond, both on the field and off of it, can tighten even more.
“Breece and I take a lot from each other,” Brock said. “But for me just being able to see Breece do what he does, just the grit that he has, he’s a guy that’s very competitive. He’s gonna go out there every day and give it his all, and he doesn’t like losing. And for me to see that, it kind of helps me, too, because we’ll get into completion as well, to where we both just don’t like losing. When you see somebody like that, when you’re competing against somebody, it just helps you improve no matter what. I got that a lot from Kene as well and I feel like we both picked that up from Kene because Kene was the ultimate competitor as well. Just being able to compete and still be able to go out there and still root for the guy you’re competing against in practice.”
For Campbell and his staff, consistency is key, and snaps are hard-earned. Brock’s haven’t come at the clip he initially envisioned, but it didn’t make his eyes wander elsewhere along the college football landscape. He didn’t grouse. He dug in and worked to get better.
“When I committed to Iowa State, I committed to Iowa State for the next four to five years, and I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” Brock said. “And I didn’t just commit here to play football. I committed here for the culture of the team. Coach Campbell has built a culture that’s unmatched by any other school, so any other place I could have been to, it wouldn’t have been the same.”
No, it wouldn’t. Now Brock’s poised to help the Cyclones pack a robust one-two punch from the tailback position while continuing to shine as a valuable situational player.
“The things that he was able to do for us on third down were big for our offense,” said Scheelhaase, ISU’s run game coordinator and receivers coach. “He was really the guy that we relied on as a third-down back and we saw him go in there and make plays, catch the ball out of the backfield, protect the quarterback, run the ball well. So I think we continue to see him work in this offseason, the work that he’s put in with our strength staff — and even seeing his body, where it’s at two years later, it’s been really impressive. So now knowing that Kene has graduated and moved on, for him to now step into a role that we can rely on him even more — and again, it works in small bits with us. You (earn) that trust with every opportunity you get and I think with him, we reflect back on last year and felt like he proved a lot to us in what be can do on our offense.”
That trust now rests on a firm foundation. More production can spring forth from that. It’s both Brock’s and Hall’s third season in the program — and the best from both of them may be yet to come, just as they planned.
“I think if you watched us play last year, man, the last six games, you would say Jirehl Brock was as important as anybody in that running back room,” Campbell said earlier this spring. “ I think (he) played almost an average of 15 to 20 snaps a game (down the stretch), was a critical blocker on some third-down situations, had some big catches and some big moments for our team. … I think he really gave himself great confidence, leaving the football season — really had a great finish. So, I think what he did on the field last year really propelled him into not only confidence, but expectations for himself leading into the fall.”