Matt Campbell 'like a second father that you never had' to Iowa State's draft hopefuls
INDIANAPOLIS — Anthony Johnson Jr. has seen plenty of Matt Campbell, the college football coach. The Iowa State safety was quite familiar with him.
What stunned Johnson, though, was to see Matt Campbell, the college football player.
"I seen some of his old college before," Johnson told the Beacon Journal on Thursday at the NFL Combine. "I'm like, I didn't know you could really move like that. So, all right, all right."
Campbell's been more than all right during his seven years coaching the Cyclones, even with a disappointing 2022 season. It's not just the winning overall record or bowl appearances, either, since the Perry High School and University of Mount Union graduate took over in Ames.
The five combined players selected in the 2021 and 2022 NFL Drafts are the most in a two-year period for Iowa State in 30 years. There's a good chance they add to the ranks of ex-Cyclones drafted into the league this year, at least judging by the four players who were invited to this week's Combine in Indianapolis.
Johnson was joined in central Indiana by defensive lineman Will McDonald IV and M.J. Anderson, along with receiver Xavier Hutchinson. McDonald, for one, has seen his stock rise thanks to a strong Senior Bowl week, and is even showing up in the top 10 of a recent mock draft by ESPN's Mel Kiper.
"It starts from the top down," Johnson said. "It starts from (Campbell). It trickles down to our position coaches, the coordinators and right down to the leaders of the team and to everybody else."
What that has created in the Cyclones' program is something the players believe is almost family-like. Within that, then, is an atmosphere where it almost becomes compulsive for one group to follow another and maintain what was established before them.
That's not just on the field or in the meeting rooms, either. It's within the entire facility, right down to the cleaning crew.
"It's just being comfortable," McDonald told the Beacon Journal. "We all have a brotherhood there, like that's what he is known for, that's what he's built there at Iowa State. You know you can go there, you can just sleep in a facility, you can do whatever you want. … Everybody's cool with everybody. Strength staff, we had an amazing strength staff ... that's getting everybody prepared for the next season. And we are even cool with Carl. Carl's our janitor. .. We clean for him. So that's just the type of family that we got, and it's just the thing that we got going on."
Iowa State isn't the first college program whose players boast about the family-like atmosphere. It's what is expected from successful programs.
What the Cyclone players insist is the difference for them, however, is Campbell. They see in him a realness that goes beyond just football coach.
"He (wants) to treat you like you're his son ... to get connected with you," McDonald said. "He wants to make sure that you're safe and comfortable. If you ... do come there, we have a great brotherhood there at Iowa State and he basically just takes you as his son. He's basically like a second father that you never had."
Contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @ceasterlingABJ
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Iowa State NFL hopefuls see Matt Campbell like a 'second father'