ISU head coach Matt Campbell’s not “shocked” by Super Bowl-bound former QB Brock Purdy’s success

Iowa State senior quarterback Brock Purdy shares a moment with head coach Matt Campbell after the Cyclones beat TCU 48-14 on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. © Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

 AMESBrock Purdy will become the first former Iowa State quarterback to start in a Super Bowl in a mere six days.

 The San Francisco 49ers’ second-year playcaller’s meteoric rise from “Mr. Irrelevant” to NFL star often comes with the tag “improbable” attached — but none of Purdy’s considerable success surprises Cyclone head coach Matt Campbell.

“Greatness is really found in life (with) this ability, when the moment comes, can you take advantage of it?” Campbell said of Purdy, who will lead his team against the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs at 5 p.m. Sunday in Las Vegas. “And Brock has always done that. He did in high school. He did it here. He’s doing it in the National Football League. He’s got this unique ability to never worry about everybody else but always worries about himself, and that makes him really special, so yeah, it doesn’t shock me at all.”

 Campbell’s unsurprising take on Purdy’s rapid ascension contrasts sharply with a handful of prominent national commentators, who deride Purdy as “a system quarterback” and/or merely a “game manager.” 

 But Purdy’s NFL numbers speak for themselves. His completion percentage of 69.4 ranks second this season among quarterbacks with 300 or more passing attempts. His 31 touchdown throws rank third and his 4,280 yards through the air — a 49ers single-season franchise record — rank fifth.

 Purdy’s penchant for making clutch plays with both his arm and his leagues in narrow playoff wins over Green Bay and Detroit prompted several teammates to publicly take issue with the “game manager” monicker.

 “He takes a lot of heat for absolutely no reason,” 49ers star running back Christian McCaffrey told reporters after the win over the Lions. “(He’s) been a great leader and a great player.”

 Again, to Campbell, Purdy’s ability to inspire and bring out the best in others — even Pro Bowlers such as McCaffrey and a handful of other teammates — has been long established. Campbell highlighted the 2020 home win over Baylor as a prime example of how Purdy maintains belief in himself and his teammates. Purdy threw three interceptions — including a pick six — in the first half of that 38-31 win. He then threw three touchdowns in the second half to help seal the comeback triumph.

 “You remember going out (down 21-10) at halftime and, man, the crowd’s restless and he had to deal with that,” Campbell said. “And his ability to come back in that football game and play the way he did in the second half — he was lights out in the second half. … I think the ebbs and flows of football and playing quarterback, and (the) success and failure of it, nobody has ever, in my mind, at least that I’ve been around, been able to lead through it as well as Brock has.”

 Now Purdy stands one win from history and Campbell will be standing beside him in spirit— somewhere in the stands, cheering his former quarterback on in the biggest game, on football’s grandest stage.

 “I kind of feel like my job is to be nowhere near him to be quite honest with you,” Campbell said. “I think as a competitor and on this stage and in this environment, this isn’t about me. It’s really all about what he’s done and what he’s accomplished.”