THE BRIDGE BUILDERS: ISU’s seniors create a “fairy tale ending” in their last game at Jack Trice Stadium

Iowa State senior quarterback Brock Purdy celebrates a 48-14 win over TCU on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. © Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

AMES — There’s a famous poem called “The Bridge Builder,” by Will Allen Dromgoole. You may be familiar with it. It concludes as follows:

“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,

“There followed after me to-day

A youth whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm that has been as naught to me

To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;

Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

 Matt Campbell read this poem to his Iowa State Cyclones after they trounced TCU 48-14 on Friday’s Senior Day at Jack Trice Stadium. It simply felt right — but it had been pre-planned, win or lose.

“One of the things I think that this group has done is, man, they came to a river that had never been crossed,” Campbell said after ISU (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) capped a second straight unbeaten home conference season. “And brick by brick, they built the bridge. They didn’t run from it. They didn’t try to escape it. They just built a bridge and they built the bridge for the youth coming up after them — and they showed them the way. 

“I think that’s one of the greatest gifts that this class has given is, man, they’ve been unbelievable teachers. They’ve been unbelievable leaders and, really, they’ve had the capacity to get it done every single step of the way.  And the bridge that they’ve built for Iowa State football going forward is maybe one of the most powerful bridges that this program has ever seen because (it had) never been built. And this group did it.”

 Brock Purdy did it. Greg Eisworth did it. Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen did it. I don’t want to leave anyone out, so I’ll try to avoid it. Mike Rose did it. Anthony Johnson did it. Colin Newell did it. Xavier Hutchinson did it. So did Enyi Uwazurike, Tarique Milton, O’Rien Vance, Jake Hummel,  Rory Walling, Datrone Young, Zach Petersen, Andrew Mevis, Derek Schweiger, Darren Wilson, Sean Foster, Corey Dunn, Connor Assalley, Derek Greiner, Parker Rickert and Jaquon Amos. 

 If I missed someone, I apologize. But the names matter less than the message. What they helped build collectively means more. How they bonded together matters the most. 

 “I mean, for as cheesy as it sounds, the love of this team — you know, I’ve played even for the 2018 team until now, just the guys that have grown, the guys that have come in after me, the younger guys, like, we click really well,” Purdy said after improving to 16-1 as a starter in Big 12 games at Jack Trice Stadium. “I can honestly say during the game we’re just so happy for one another. In the locker room as we’re praying, it’s like it’s real. What we have is real. We love coming to work every single day to workout, to watch film, to be around each other. We don’t get sick of each other. It’s hard to explain. It’s real. It’s authentic. I was talking to coaches and stuff and they’re like, ‘This isn’t everywhere. What you have, I hope you can appreciate it, because you’re gonna see later in life it’s not like this everywhere that you go.’”

 No it’s not. But it might be in flux now. Will Campbell be back, or could he move on to build somewhere else? Nothing’s etched in stone except for what these seniors (and a handful of juniors) carved into the record books.

 **Kolar broke ISU’s tight end single season receptions mark (58) despite being hobbled early in the year.

**Hall now stands alone as the only back in FBS history to rush for a touchdown in as many as 24 consecutive games. He scored four touchdowns Friday and rushed for a career-best 242 yards on 18 carries.

 “Breece is as special as they come,” Campbell said. “What a way for Breece to play that out if like I said, if this is it, Man, he he did everything he set to accomplish here at Iowa State.”

**Will McDonald broke his own single-season sacks record with 12.5.

**Purdy tossed touchdowns to Hall and Allen. He now owns 32 individual school records with one bowl game to go.

“There’s nothing like playing at home, under the lights, and having your whole team do their thing, go crazy, and just enjoy one another,” Purdy said. “That’s what it’s about.”

**Allen scored the game’s final touchdown — a 35-yard strike from Purdy with 4:48 left.

“This place means so much to me,” said Allen, who chose Iowa State when it didn’t have a scholarship tight end — and spurned then-higher profile schools to join Campbell’s burgeoning program. “All the people that were a huge part of it — I know I crossed the (goal) line, I turned around and Charlie (Kolar) was there with tears in his eyes. He said it made him emotional, getting to watch that. I’m just so trying to soak up all the moments I have left with these guys, because they seriously mean the world to me.”

**Eisworth rose up to intercept a pass in the end zone early in the fourth quarter. One play later, Hall darted 80 yards for his third touchdown of the day.

“It’s almost like a fairy-tale ending,” Eisworth said. “Watching Charlie make plays, Brock make plays, Chase. And the O-line playing their tails off. Mike Rose making plays, Jake Hummel, you see Tucker (Robertson) coming in, getting a sack. Just across the board. Zach Petersen got a pass breakup and almost an interception. You almost couldn’t ask for a better night, honestly.”

 So consider that segment of the bridge fully built. What comes next is anyone’s guess — along with who the main builders will be. But Friday was special. Emotional. Tearful and joyful all at once.

It started for Hutchinson — who broke the program’s single-season receptions record with 82 —when he met Campbell in the pre-game hug line …

“I was like, ‘Coach Campbell don’t you cry on me,’” Hutchinson said. “Then I’m gonna start to cry. And then everybody else will start to cry.”

 Spoiler alert: They cried.

 Players, parents and coaches. Savoring the moments, from start to finish. Feeling and sharing the love.

“Yeah, my mom started crying immediately,” Hutchinson said. “I told her to stop crying. She just said she was proud of me and that’s all you ever want as a son. Just to hear that your parents are proud of you. That’s all I’ve ever really wanted, for them to be proud of me and who I’ve become. Tonight was a great … it was honestly … like I said before, it was a great, sad day.”

 Another brick. Another chapter. With more to build.

“I’m gonna cherish every single day I have with the guys moving forward,” Purdy said. “I understand that’s it not gonna last forever, but I want to continue to just show the guys after me, ‘Hey, this is how we can do it. This is how you guys can do it better and take this place to another level.’ That’s gonna be our job. That’s our goal and continue to love one another.”