Blum: The Event We Call Signing Day

Get used to all of the new Cyclones. Practice annunciating their names, memorize their hometowns and know all of their vital figures. Impress your spouse with information of Devin McDowell's 4.3 speed and speak of Austen Arnaud like he is your new nephew. It sounds a little crazy, but in some way, these 30 or so young men will be a part of all of our everyday conversations for at least four or five years to come.

Get used to all of the new Cyclones. Practice annunciating their names, memorize their hometowns and know all of their vital figures. Impress your spouse with information of Devin McDowell's 4.3 speed and speak of Austen Arnaud like he is your new nephew. It sounds a little crazy, but in some way, these 30 or so young men will be a part of all of our everyday conversations for at least four or five years to come. Signing day is like a marriage ceremony for the players and the fans. We hear of the great things and everybody is all smiles. Even the pessimistic fans can be heard saying, "I think this Kris Means fellow has some real potential." It's a fantastic day for everyone involved.

         

(Just for kicks, during the next wedding you attend make comments to everyone within ear shot that the bride's 40 time from the end of the aisle is a step slow, or that the groom needs to put on 50 pounds to make the transition to the next level of the relationship. People will be utterly confused.)

 

For the young men signing on the dotted line, today is the marriage and this week is the honeymoon. What a great feeling. I can't imagine a more exciting and nerve-wracking time than putting your John Hancock on that letter of intent. (Cue Tommy Boy: John Hancock? It's Herbie Hancock.) It looks like a regular sheet of paper until you think of what an ordinary signature can mean.

 

It was hard enough for me to sign that piece of paper and the only thing holding me up was the ratio of men to women at Iowa State. (Let's just say there is a lack of women in the engineering field.) I even had to pause for a day or so before signing to merely become a student in the Liberal of Arts and Sciences school. And it's not like I couldn't transfer if things didn't work out. These men don't have that luxury. This thing is permanent.

 

Whether they like it or not, they will be seen on campus as 1. Football player 2. Student. In some ways it's a target. Once they step foot in Ames, they immediately become a public figure. Everywhere you go, everything you do, someone will notice. Whether it's that theatre major in the cafeteria who scoffs at all athletes or that old, grizzled professor who feels athletics are the bane of Iowa State, everyone will have an opinion and sometimes it's not a flattering one.  

 

Ames has a fish-bowl quality and it's not easy to escape. Signing on the dotted line is like signing to be a part of a reality show; your privacy is immediately thrown by the way-side.

 

Makes the decision to fax that letter a bit more difficult, doesn't it?

 

But that signature also means a bridge to a great future. These 30 young adults have an advantage many dream about.  Playing for a Division 1 college football program and representing the 30,000 students at Iowa State, hundreds of thousands of alumni and millions of folks in the state of Iowa is something very few of us are lucky enough to experience. Oh, not to mention, they will receive a quality education and make friendships that last forever.

 

My first day at Iowa State, I was a little apprehensive about meeting new people. It was a few days before classes and I really didn't know anyone in my dorm. I lived in Larch, which is one of the large concrete buildings just north of Hilton and which happens to be a popular place for freshman football players to live. Anyway, I'm sitting in my room by myself, contemplating what I had gotten myself into. I get a knock at the door and in walk two guys wearing ISU football sweat-suits. "My name is Taylor, and this is Nate," one of the guys said, "We're your new neighbors." I introduced myself and being the recruiting guru I was at the time, I immediately recognized them. "Hey, I know you guys, you're a three star and you're a two star." They were half-way shocked and probably a bit scared. I don't blame them. Turns out Taylor Schrage and Nate Mechaelsen were fantastic neighbors and great guys who made my first weeks on campus much easier.  

 

When this year's class steps on campus, they may become a public figure, but they will also be the face of Iowa State and bring pride to everyone associated with the school. I can't imagine how fantastic that would feel.

 

The reasons for their choosing of Iowa State range the spectrum. Some want playing time, others want to play for coach Mac, and a few liked the family atmosphere. A couple probably came so they can eat at Hickory Park every week. After today, the reasons are arbitrary, they are all Cyclones. Stars no longer matter; nobody cares about your astronomical stats in high school or what other schools extended you offers. It's all about I-S-U.

 

It's fun for us fans, as well. Tracking these guys' careers like they are our one of our own can be very rewarding. Watching an Austin Flynn transition form highly-touted quarterback, to Seneca Wallace's back-up, to beat-up freshman starter, to back-up quarterback, to reliable receiver starting in a bowl game, is endearing. I feel tremendous pride when I see Austin Flynn in the Cardinal and Gold, just like he was one of my good friends.

 

I can't wait to see how these young guys develop. Where will they take us? How will it happen? Who will be the next Austin Flynn? Is there any chance they will stay as long as Tony Yelk?  

 

Today may be the honeymoon, but the five year anniversary is almost more enjoyable.

 

Let's just hope they all make it down the aisle.            


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