During Will McLaughlin’s junior year, his Harlan Community High School team came up one game short of a state championship in Iowa’s 3A class, losing to North Scott in the finals by a score of 30-6.
When faced with adversity as seniors, McLaughlin and the Cyclones overcame the challenge and rolled through an undefeated season that saw them beat Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley, 42-28, to win the state title less than a month ago in Cedar Falls.
Next week on December 15, McLaughlin will sign with Iowa State and enroll at the school for the spring semester to get a head start on his college career.
“I’m (ready),” McLaughlin said. “It’s been a while. The recruiting process – I don’t know – it’s been long. I’m ready for it to be over, go to work, and make a name for myself at the next level.”
During his senior year, McLaughlin totaled 23.5 tackles and three sacks, helping Harlan to its 13th state championship and first since 2009.
In just over a week, that chapter will close and McLaughlin will prepare to head to Ames.
A big part of what brought him was how the coaching staff approached recruiting in the middle of the global pandemic.
“Coach Campbell – he’s such a big factor,” McLaughlin said. “Recruiting during COVID is not easy at all. I think their staff went about it the best way possible. I would get texts from different coaches (Campbell, defensive coordinator Jon Heacock, or linebacker coach Tyson Veidt). I think they contacted me twice a week during the pandemic when we weren’t able to see them.”
He related it to the family atmosphere that we hear about at Iowa State so often.
“Whether it was on FaceTime or just a text, it never got annoying to me like some of the other schools,” McLaughlin said. “It didn’t feel transactional. Coach Campbell preaches relationships and his actions are obviously speaking louder than his words with what he’s doing the past couple of years. I think I can speak for all of the recruits. We trust him with the program.”
That trust is what has allowed Campbell and his staff to build the highest-rated recruiting class in school history.
McLaughlin, the No. 6 player in Iowa according to 247Sports’ composite rankings, is a big part of that.