Matt Campbell's first stop on the recruiting trail when he arrived at Iowa State late last year was a trip down the road to Ames High, where one of his missions was to reaffirm the program's offer to 2017 offensive lineman Colin Newell.
The gesture was both symbolic of Iowa State’s emphasis on in-state recruiting under the new regime and of its focus on local talent worthy of Power 5 attention.
“That was huge,” Newell said Saturday of Campbell coming to visit in December. “That was just showing right away that he cared about me [and] thought I was a good enough player for him to be his first visit because he wants to make relationships from the start. So I thought that was a huge honor.”
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Newell, who is ranked as the No. 80 overall offensive tackle in 2017 and the No. 16 tackle in the Midwest at this early stage of the recruiting cycle, had since added offers from Colorado State, Eastern Michigan, Miami (OH) and Illinois State.
Saturday, Newell ended his recruitment with a pledge to the Cyclones following the team’s closed scrimmage, which played host to several key 2017 targets.
“I just knew it was the right place,” Newell said. “I’ve been to their practices, I’ve seen how they coach, I’ve seen the excitement they bring to practice every day, just the progression of the team and everything. I knew it was the right time.
“I’ve been really talking about it with my family and everything and I’ve known for quite awhile. When I absolutely knew it’s the right fit I wanted to do it.”
Newell, who Iowa State thinks could play any of the five spots along the line, is Iowa State's fourth commit in the 2017 class, including the third from the state of Iowa. He joins Waterloo West quarterback Devon Moore and Cedar Rapids Washington linebacker O'Rien Vance as the other Iowans in a class which has had added focus on local prospects.
Iowa State is in the process of rebuilding its offensive line, and Newell is only the beginning of that quest with the 2017 class. The Cyclones will likely add at least three more linemen in 2017 and also have their eyes set on Spirit Lake (IA) lineman Zach Dykstra, who also visited again for Saturday’s scrimmage.
Being a local product, Newell will also now become a lead recruiter.
“I live in Ames, I follow all the Iowa State people on Twitter and everything. I not only see the buzz on my phone on Twitter and stuff, but I get to walk around town [and] go to high school with all my friends who hear about it,” Newell said. “It’s what we talk about. There’s so much excitement in the city of Ames right now with the program the way it’s going.”
Newell had drawn additional interest from Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Florida State and North Dakota State before ending his recruitment Saturday.
The commitment has been a long time in the making, several months after Newell sat with offensive coordinator Tom Manning to dissect his film and build an early relationship.
“About two months ago I went over there and it was just me and [Manning] and my dad for I would say two hours we had a good meeting just talking football and talking life and everything,” Newell said. “We were just talking about what he sees in my film and the finish and all this stuff. Being an offensive lineman, you’ve got to work hard all the time, so he loved that [about me].”
Saturday, before he headed to Campbell’s office some four months after Campbell came and visited him at Ames High, Newell watched Iowa State scrimmage and envisioned a day in the not so distant future, when he joins the fold.
“It’s super exciting,” Newell said of playing for the hometown Cyclones. “Just the knowledge that Coach Manning has, I try to take it in when he’s coaching his players and can just see that being myself someday soon.
“It’s something I’ve grown up dreaming about and to have that dream become a reality is just amazing. It’s very special.”