Two of the biggest success stories in Dan McCarney's tenure, former walk-ons Danielsen and defensive tackle Jordan Carstens, made the trip to Kansas City one month before opening their final seasons in Ames. After earning second-team All-Big 12 mention in 2002, Carstens locked up a spot on the preseason first-team. Danielsen, meanwhile, ranks second in career reception yards at ISU with 1,918 after catching 112 passes in two seasons.
Both sent compliments McCarney's way Wednesday.
"Coming into Iowa State as a walk-on, Coach Mac gives everybody a fair opportunity," said Danielsen. "I came in as a preferred walk-on and he treated me just like a scholarship player and gave me a fair chance. The only difference really is that I was paying my own way."
Added Carstens, "It's a great experience to be able to come in as a walk-on and work your way up to earning a scholarship. I really had to earn it and it made me feel good. Financially it was nice to have, but you also get a lot more respect from the players because they know you've earned it."
McCarney, who's contract runs through 2010, spoke positively about where his program is going. He likes the stability and continuity in his coaching staff.
His players faced some questions about expectations and the bar being raised from when their careers started at ISU.
"Going to three straight bowl games made people look at Iowa State football in a different light," Danielsen said. "Before 1999 or 2000, Iowa State football was non-existent and when everybody looked at their schedule and saw Iowa State as an automatic win. It's not like that anymore. We go into games expecting victory no matter who we're playing."
Added JaMaine Billups, "Now that we've got the program turned around and everything, it seems like we're expected to go to a bowl game and play at a higher level. We're going to do whatever we can to be the best team out there."
After letting some games get away down the stretch of 2002, namely contests against Texas, Colorado and Connecticut, Danielsen wants this year's group to play just as well in the final 30 minutes as the opening 30.
"If you look at our schedule in the second half of the season there were four games that we were leading at halftime and ended up losing," he said. "We can't let that happen this year. We need to go out and play four quarters. We need to learn from our mistakes last season and start finishing those games."
(CN would like to thank The Nest Bar & Grill in Johnston for sponsoring our coverage from Kansas City. CN & The Nest would like to invite you to join us on Wednesday, August 27th for our 2003 preseason tailgate party. Stay tuned to CN and 1460-KXNO for more details)