Jan 2, 2021; Glendale, AZ, USA; Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar (88) celebrates a touchdown against Oregon during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-Arizona Republic
AMES — Charlie Kolar knows there is a balance that must be struck.
The Iowa State football program’s confidence is at an all-time high — and rightfully so. The Cyclones return almost every key player from last year’s 9-3 squad that made the school’s first Big 12 title game appearance and won the program’s first New Year’s Six bowl game — a 34-17 thumping of Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.
Success at that level breeds confidence, and you can feel it anytime you’re around someone associated with the program right now. But, there is a fine line between confidence and cockiness — and striking that balance will be important for a program looking to reach even greater heights this season.
Confidence can become swagger. Cockiness can become complacency.
“When you’re confident on the field, you play hard, and you know what you’re doing. When you get cocky, you get lazy,” Kolar, who enters his senior season as Iowa State’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns by a tight end, said during the program’s media day on Monday. “I don’t think confidence is an issue. I think I like the team we are right now. I think we’re playing really hard. I think we’re doing a really good job of trying to walk that line of confidence and humility.”
One might think finding that balance is even more difficult in this age of social media. These Cyclones are not oblivious to what the outside world thinks of them or how high fan expectations are for the program in 2021.
They know how highly ranked they are in preseason polls and how many people see them accomplishing great things as a team this fall. They’d have to live under a proverbial rock to avoid those things.
Learning how to channel those things or block them out of your mindset completely falls into the process of striking that balance Kolar talks about.
“If you’re a player, your expectations should be so high for yourself anyway that you shouldn’t be able to have anyone put anything on you that is stressful,” Kolar said. “For me, I don’t care what people think about me or say about me because I’m harder on myself than anyone else can be. The coaches, I listen to them. I care about that, but I’m talking about outside… I think it helps. I don’t think pressure is bad. Like I think pressure, what’s the phrase like tough times don’t build character, they reveal it. When you see pressure like that, it can really help you as a team, too. We’ve had the blessing of coming from nowhere in the past two years, and it’s not going to happen this year. People know we’ve got a good team. I think it’s really fun to see. It’s gonna play out. But I think it’s just testing maturity.”