As Friday turned to Saturday, the nerves crept up on Jake Campos.
In a matter of only two days, the redshirt freshman had gone from being Iowa State’s second-string right tackle to arriving at Jack Trice Stadium as a starter. The nerves had turned to anxiousness when Campos reached the tunnel.
“Best feeling in the world,” Campos said of running onto the field as a starter.
After senior Jacob Gannon left practice and quit the team last Wednesday, Campos arrived at practice Thursday to find his name atop the depth chart. His task: handling Kansas State All-Big 12 defensive end, Ryan Mueller.
Campos, a highly-recruited four-star offensive lineman out of West Des Moines Valley, is no slouch. The 6-foot-8, 291-pound tackle was a U.S. Army All-American and was ranked as Scout’s No. 19 tackle in the 2013 class.
Going against one of the Big 12’s top defensive ends is another story, and Saturday would provide Campos, albeit more quickly than anyone had anticipated, an opportunity to put the accolades to the test.
“That first snap, that was crazy,” Campos said. “But after that is starts to settle down and you just get in the flow of the game.”
Campos employed the advice of center Tom Farniok leading up to his debut Saturday. Farniok, a redshirt senior, knows well what the task of starting as a redshirt freshman entails. That’s when his first starts came, and he’s been there ever since.
Farniok was asked what it would feel like and how he performed. He filled Campos in and provided another message.
“Your best will not be good enough, which stinks sometimes. His effort and intensity will make up for that hopefully,” Farniok said. “You’re going to get beat, because it’s just going to happen. It happens to everyone, but when you’re a redshirt freshman it happens a little more. You just have to be able to turn the page.”
Campos was undoubtedly beat at times against Mueller, but held his own overall. Farniok and left tackle Brock Dagel offered advice on the sideline: “Just relax, you’ve got this," they told him one time. “Just breathe,” they offered another.
All in all, quarterback Sam Richardson took two sacks in the loss and the offense found a rhythm. When all was said and done, the film having been graded by coaches, Campos’ numbers didn’t make the rookie look like an All-American.
“[He] didn’t necessarily grade out extremely well,” coach Paul Rhoads said.
That doesn’t mean Campos didn’t impress.
“You’ve got to understand he was going against one of the best in the Big 12 and he never backed down from that challenge,” Rhoads continued. “He improved from the beginning of the game to the end of the game.”
Campos, who figures to be a longterm fixture on the Cyclones’ offensive line, said two points of emphasis moving forward are playing with a lower pad level and getting bigger first steps on blocks.
For now, he can finally breathe.
“Jake, first of all, did a very respectable job,” offensive coordinator Mark Mangino said. “He was playing against one of the best defensive ends in the league. The guy was disruptive a few times and made a few plays, but when you look at the whole picture of him being a redshirt freshman lining up against him, [he did] a very respectable job.”
“I’m excited about him right now and his future.”