As Southwest Mississippi C.C. tight end Cliff Fernandez prepared for his first official visit to Iowa State, he felt as if a decision could come by week’s end.
Sunday, that inkling came to fruition as the 6-foot-5, 257-pounder pledged to the Cyclones to cap his weekend trip. Fernandez, who is somewhat new to the tight end position, was also receiving interest from the likes of New Mexico, South Florida and Southern Miss among others before his commitment.
“After I got here, the fans, players and coaches were great,” Fernandez said Sunday. “This is the place I need to be.”
Fernandez arrived at Southwest Mississippi C.C. as a quarterback, but quickly transitioned to tight end. He played in the final three or so games of the 2014 season and has appeared in eight games at tight end this season, catching 20 passes for 188 yards.
Lining up at tight end, in the slot and as an H-back, Fernandez’s skillset is still evolving, but Iowa State likes his potential at the position. Defensive ends coach Stan Eggen evaluated Fernandez in Mississippi during Iowa State’s bye week in late September and the Cyclones offered shortly after.
On his weekend visit, he got a closer look at what coaches envision.
“They kind of showed me stuff they used to do with their prior tight end, [E.J.] Bibbs,” Fernandez said of his meeting with Paul Rhoads and Todd Sturdy. “They showed me the stuff they used to do with him and they said they’d like to get back to that. He was used a lot like I’m used now. I like that.”
Fernandez will arrive at Iowa State for the second semester, signing with the Cyclones in December as a mid-year signee with two years to play two. There is hope that early arrival will pay immediate dividends in 2016.
“I’ll be able to get in and get used to the program and get to learn the plays and stuff, get to learn the system,” Fernandez said. “If I was to come in May I’d probably be behind, but me coming in in January, I’ll be able to learn the system quicker and learn a lot more and get prepared.”
What is Iowa State getting?
“I feel like I’ve done pretty good [transitioning], but I feel like I’m going to be way better. I just have to work,” Fernandez had said before his trip. “I can do hands-down, I can line up as an H-back, I can line up in the slot and I can do one-on-ones. I have great hands. Nine times out of 10, if the ball comes my way, it’s caught.”
Now, he’ll do those things in cardinal and gold.
“Probably no more [visits],” Fernandez said. “I’ve pretty much got my mind made up now.”