From an outsider's perspective, Cris Love had set himself up for a life full of success. At 24 years of age, he had just begun his career in the professional world. And odds are he was going to succeed. There wasn't any other option.
Love committed to Iowa State
after a tremendous high school career in the talent-rich fields of south
Texas. At 6'5
he was a towering presence with a powerful right arm. As the son of a Texas
Ranger lawman, he came to Iowa State with a southern swagger and grinning
confidence. Cowboy boots and all.
When he arrived in Ames in the fall of 2000,
he experienced the greatest season in Cyclone Football history. Nine wins and
the first ever bowl victory. And no doubt, the tall Texan wanted to leave his
own imprint on his new-called home. It looked like he may have his chance after
Sage Rosenfels moved on to the NFL. Love and Gerrin Scott were the only
quarterbacks penciled in to return for the 2001 season. But a late recruitment
of an eclectic JUCO quarterback would force Love to spend more time on the
sideline. As Seneca Wallace's back-up, Love minded his time out of the
lime-light and made the most of his preparations. In his first game action as a
Cyclone, he completed 4-5 passes for 41 yards in the 2001 opener against UNI.
Coincidentally, his first play in
the Cardinal and Gold uniform was a hand-off to Ennis Haywood. It resulted in a
Two years later he found himself
in a similar situation. This time the new hot-shot QB was from right down the
road of his Round Rock residence. When Austin Flynn got the starting nod, Love
could have hung up his Cyclone helmet and transferred elsewhere. But that wasn't
in his mindset. That would have been the easy route. Instead he helped tutor
Flynn; always the consummate teammate. Six games into the 2003 season and Love
received his first extended time in the saddle. Fittingly, it was in his home
state against Texas Tech. All he did was complete 15 passes for 262 yards and
two touchdowns. The career day included an 80 yard strike to Lane Danielsen,
which is the seventh longest pass in ISU history and remains the longest Cyclone
play in the last seven years.
The next week he received his
first start against whom else, but the Longhorns of Texas.
Cris finished his career at
State the next year by
watching another freshman in Bret Meyer take snaps under center. Love could have
given up. But again he chose the selfless route and was integral in the
development of Meyer. Helping him pick-up the offense and leading Iowa State to theirs and his fourth bowl game
in five years, making him one of the most successful Cyclones of all time.
Love never received much
attention. He didn't put up gaudy numbers. All he did was go out and get his
work done, day-after-day. He was by all accounts a fantastic teammate and a
great man. In all families, you need your bread-winners and stage-grabbers. But
just as important you need someone in the shadows working hard to keep the
family thriving. To keep it together. And that's what Cris was. A leading part
of the Cardinal and Gold family. Forever a Cyclone.
On a stunning Iowa Day last April,
I remember walking around the Iowa State campus, going about my day, glancing
around at the freshly minted trees next to the new business school. I looked up
and saw an imposing figure, his face shielded by an ISU baseball cap. In jeans,
topped with an oversized belt buckle, the man hopped into a big Texas-sized
truck. As he drove away, I got a good look at the almost-too confident grin
cemented on his goateed face. As he drove away, it all made sense. Branded on
plates read: "LOVE 16." I shook my
head, and silently thought to myself: "That guy seems untouchable. He's the
definition of larger-than-life."
And only a year later, that life