The three most unexpected happenings Monday — the Cyclones' first day of fall practice — involved true freshman Allen Lazard.
First: Lazard, the four-star stud and U.S. Army All-American, dropped a pass in early drills.
Second: Lazard dropped another pass on the next rep.
Third: Lazard met with the local press, breaking the Paul Rhoads-imposed media ban before it ever got started.
"How do you know I wasn't going to do that all along, and said the things I did on signing day to ruffle feathers or be funny?" said Rhoads, who in February memorably boasted about Lazard's signed letter of intent and said the freshman wouldn't talk to any reporters his first season in Ames after his decision to commit to Iowa State was panned by a few members of the Des Moines-area media (a legitimate gripe for Rhoads to have, nonetheless).
Playing football for the first time since January's Army Game, Lazard was swept up in the pace of Iowa State's practice Monday, a far cry from Urbandale, which carries about 50 players on its roster and therefore needs to slow down its practices to keep players fresh.
Lazard, in the white No. 5, was here and he was there, running a slant and then a hitch, catching a pass from Joel Lanning and then from Darius Lee-Campbell. The drops are nothing to worry about. If anything, it was kinda funny — "Redshirt him!" someone joked — the most acclaimed freshman in Iowa State history looking like, well, a freshman.
"I'm just like everyone else on the team," Lazard said. "I'm a freshman, too. I've got to earn the respect of the players and coaches and I've got to earn a starting spot and playing time, just like everyone else."
Watch all the way through for Lazard and try not to develop motion-sickness
On Monday, Lazard was the most talked-about third-string receiver in the annals of college football. Rhoads, offensive coordinator Mark Mangino and quarterback Grant Rohach each fielded questions about him.
While they're certainly impressed, the last thing any of them's going to do is anoint Lazard as the messiah of Iowa State's offense. A bevy of talented wideouts with more experience occupy the two-deep. It'll be extremely tough for Lazard to crack the starting lineup in 2014. But he can help, especially in the redzone. Lazard said he gained about five pounds in the offseason and worked to get faster — two things which'll help him get off press jams as he faces a steep upgrade in competition.
"With all freshmen, there's a learning curve," Rohach said.
New NCAA regulations allowing coaches to be more hands-on with players during the summer periods, Lazard and the other members of Iowa State's 2014 recruiting class sat in on roughly two weeks worth of meetings this summer, going over the playbook. It's beginning to soak in, but there's work to be done.
"I've just got to learn the playbook first, then come the fundamentals of the game," Lazard said. "Getting open and stuff, nothing too big."
On his way to catching 105 career passes for 2,349 yards and 34 scores with the Jayhawks, Lazard became used to the media attention. The same corps that covers the Cyclones has tracked him for a few years, from his first year on varsity in 2010 to his commitment to Iowa State in December of 2012, and Lazard is comfortable enough with the familiar cameras and microphones to appreciate the give-and-take.
"I don't care what everyone else says — I've got my own personal goals and team goals," Lazard said when asked about the hype.
Naturally, Lazard was prodded to expand on those goals.
"It's personal," he said.
Hilarious. Now go catch the football, kid.