Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy grew up idolizing Tim Tebow.
After a phenomenal freshman season, perhaps it was more than serendipity that the Cyclones awarded Purdy No. 15, which Tebow wore at Florida, when he first arrived on campus.
Purdy, who rose from the third string to lead Iowa State to seven wins in nine games in 2018, met with reporters for the first time on Friday. Iowa State doesn’t allow freshmen to speak with reporters.
Striving to model one’s approach to both football and life after Tebow — one of the greatest college players of all time — might seem a bit audacious. But Purdy, who set the school record for both completion percentage and passing efficiency in 2018, might be one of the few guys who could actually pull it off.
“Just his faith, first of all. I take my life seriously with my faith,” Purdy said of Tebow, a devout Christian. “Watching his game and his passion for his team and the university he played for, that’s what I want to do here at Iowa State … (I was) always trying to see what he did on the sideline and on the field to get his team going and to find that drive for everybody.”
Purdy, who threw for a state record 57 touchdown passes at Chandler High in Gilbert, Arizona, was a late bloomer as a recruit. But Purdy wound up turning down the likes of Alabama and Texas A&M to play for the Cyclones and Matt Campbell, their rising young coach.
Still, the thinking heading into last season was that Purdy would spend a year getting acclimated to college while preparing to compete against Zeb Noland for the starting spot in 2019.
By early October, injuries and ineffectiveness changed all that.
Senior starter Kyle Kempt sprained his knee in a 13-3 loss to Iowa in the opener. Noland put up decent stats as Kempt’s replacement, but the Cyclones were just 1-3 ahead of a trip to Oklahoma State. Campbell finally pulled Noland after one series against the Cowboys in favor of Purdy, who proved to be a revelation from the first snap he took.
“When that second series came, it was go time from there,” Purdy said.
Indeed it was, as Purdy threw for 318 yards, ran for 84 more and tallied five touchdowns — four through the air and one on the ground — in a 48-42 win that kick-started a renaissance for the Cyclones.
Purdy then threw for 254 yards and three TDs in a 30-14 victory over then-No. 6 West Virginia and had 250 yards with a pair of scores in a road win at Texas Tech. By then, it had become so apparent that Purdy was the future of the program that Noland transferred to North Dakota State shortly thereafter.
Iowa State went 6-1 against Big 12 opponents behind Purdy, who credited Kempt with mentoring him through his first season.
“Kempt showed me how things are run as a quarterback for a whole program,” Purdy said. “He broke things down for me in the film room, on the field. Without him, I don’t think the success is there.”
Purdy, who threw for 2,250 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2018, is now hoping to fill Iowa State’s leadership void with Kempt gone and running back David Montgomery and receiver Hakeem Butler off to the NFL.
“It’s great to get that (experience) under my belt, and the guys can look to me now with any questions they might have,” Purdy said. “Every time I step on the field, man, I just want to elevate everyone’s game.”