On Tuesday, Iowa State’s Joel Lanning appeared on the USA Today Network Heisman Survey following Iowa State’s historic 38-31 win over the #3 Oklahoma Sooners in Norman. Lanning’s early season appearance came with great attention on Tuesday morning as the magnitude of the Cyclones’ monster upset reverberated across the country.
The list spread on Facebook walls and Twitter feeds like wildfire as ecstatic Cyclones fans saw the accolades pour in for Lanning, an Ankeny, Iowa native, and fan favorite. Fans of other schools scoffed at the idea of a player receiving such a ranking in only his fifth start in the new linebacker position, one he hadn’t played since middle school. Many of the naysayers cited other players more deserving of such a ranking (in an unofficial October newspaper poll) for the Heisman Trophy. Although the praise and accolades are great to see for such a great player, who has dedicated himself tirelessly to his teammates and has finally seen the fruits of his labor, the naysayers are probably correct. Barring incredibly unforeseen circumstances, Joel Lanning will not win the Heisman Memorial Trophy this season.
But that’s not the point…
The level of prestige that comes with the Heisman Trophy comes from elite performances, on big stages, in clutch moments. For a school like Iowa State, which has never sniffed a National Championship, or spot in a BCS or New Years Six bowl game, the words elite and clutch seem distant and unfamiliar. Saturday’s win over Oklahoma notched an elite accomplishment for the Cyclone Football program on a national stage, which signified a turn of the tide and another solid reminder that Matt Campbell’s message and process are reaching these players in the locker room, and yielding success.
Players like Joel Lanning and others on Iowa State’s roster have seen countless losses, numerous criticisms and doubts, and even a coaching change during their tenure in Ames. Despite these setbacks, Lanning and his teammates have shown up daily and fought to put their program in a position to finally compete in games again, get wins of note on a national stage, and ultimately change a culture for a program steeped in losing. On Saturday, Lanning on the Cyclones notched another hole in their belt as their building process continues in Ames, and that is the the point to be gained from Tuesday’s accolades in the USA Today Network Heisman Survey.
So will Joel Lanning win the Heisman? Probably not. However, is this your Grandma’s Iowa State Cyclones? Definitely not. Accolades like Lanning’s on Tuesday show a program making strides in a steep upward direction, and if you take it as anything else, you’re simply missing the point. In this case, the naysayers may be correct over one small detail, but lack an understanding of the greater picture.
That greater picture is a cataclysmic storm in their rear-view mirror.