If Paul Rhoads and his staff needed a nap Wednesday afternoon, it would have most certainly been forgiven after the race Iowa State endured in the days and weeks leading up to the Signing Day finish line, spending countless hours staring into the horizon from airplane seats across the country.
The Cyclones finished off their 2015 class with 22 commits Wednesday, but getting to that number certainly didn’t come without some sleepless nights and jet leg. Of Iowa State’s commits, eight were signed after the dead period was lifted Jan. 15, and the Cyclones were forced to fend off other schools to retain older commits.
“This is year 27 of recruiting at this level,” Rhoads said Wednesday, “and it has been the wildest month of January in that time.”
Wild would be one way to describe it. Jam-packed is another.
When Rhoads departed Des Moines on Jan. 19 for Houston, he began two weeks worth of nonstop travel around the country. During the course of that week, Rhoads visited six different cities. He went from Houston to Austin (TX). Then he hit Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and Kansas City before arriving back in town for weekend visits. Count it up, and from Jan. 19-23, Rhoads logged nearly 4,500 miles through the air.
In the final week before Signing Day, the miles continued to add up.
Last Monday Rhoads spent the day traveling around Florida before returning Tuesday for visits. Wednesday he saw four states in one day, going from Iowa to Tulsa and then to Coffeyville (Kan.), Kansas City and Osceola (Iowa) before finally returning to Ames after racking up nearly 1,000 miles. On Thursday he visited commits in Cedar Rapids.
That was just Rhoads. Factor in the 10 others coaches, and Iowa State racked up the air miles in closing out its 2015 class.
“It was a great January, a great close by our staff,” Rhoads said. “I don’t think we’ve landed as many quality players in the month of January against great competition in any of our previous classes.”
In the end, the air travel paid off as Iowa State picked up eight commits between Jan. 16 and Signing Day on Wednesday. The Cyclones fended off Wisconsin to land running back Joshua Thomas. They beat Missouri to get Josh Coleman. Hakeem Butler chose Iowa State rather than staying home in Houston.
Sure, the Cyclones watched a handful of players flip. “Everybody lost players. People were losing players today,” Rhoads said. “It’s part of recruiting. It’s going to happen.” Iowa State may have lost a few, but it also held on to some of its prized commits, keeping Julian Good-Jones when schools (Louisville and Indiana) came calling as well as Seth Nerness (Kansas State, Louisville, North Carolina and West Virginia).
Running backs coach Louis Ayeni played a role in multiple visits.
“It’s been a wild ride in January,” Ayeni said. “It’s been hectic, man. I’m lucky I don’t have a wife and kids, she’d probably divorce me. I went place to place. I think I was in three cities, two plane rides in one day.”
In the end, Rhoads and his staff finished. So now, they rest. Until it begins again.