Last Word On Sports’ College Football Department has launched a series of articles that profile what a Mount Rushmore would look like for each college football team. The series continues today with a look at the Iowa State Cyclones.
Iowa State Football’s Mount Rushmore
Jack Trice (Tackle – 1923)
As it could be imagined, it is hard to disect the 124 years of Iowa State football into four, singular people to glorify on a monument – albeit this one being fictional. However Jack Trice is one person that will always make the list. Trice became the first African-American to play at Iowa State when he started his first game during the 1923 season. Before he set foot on the field, Trice wrote a touching note:
” My thoughts just before the first real college game of my life: The honor of my race, family & self is at stake. Everyone is expecting me to do big things. I will. My whole body and soul are to be thrown recklessly about the field tomorrow. Every time the ball is snapped, I will be trying to do more than my part. On all defensive plays I must break through the opponents’ line and stop the play in their territory. Beware of mass interference. Fight low, with your eyes open and toward the play. Watch out for crossbucks and reverse end runs. Be on your toes every minute if you expect to make good. Jack.”
During the game, Trice was trampled by Minnesota players after making a tackle, and had to be taken to the hospital. He insisted that he was fine, but later passed away from internal bleeding and hemorrhaged lungs. He literally died for Iowa State Football, and that’s why his name will forever live on in the history books.
Nowadays the Cyclones play their home games at Jack Trice Stadium, the only field named after an African-American in the NCAA FBS. A statue of Trice sits just outside one of the entrances to the stadium and the team even wore throwback uniforms to honor him in 2014.
Troy Davis (Runnig Back 1993-1996)
Iowa State has never had a Heisman winner in the school’s history, however Troy Davis came oh-so-close in 1996.
Davis traveled to two Heisman Trophy Ceremonies in a row in 1995 and ’96 thanks to rushing for over 2,000 yards in two consecutive seasons. That earned him a fifth place finish in the voting during the first year, and a very narrow runner up finish in the second. In fact, many believed Davis was robbed of the Heisman, after being the first player in NCAA history to rush for over 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, yet, here we are.
Davis went on to play in the NFL for three years with the Saints, and finished his career over the next decade with multiple teams in the CFL. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
George Amundson (Quarterback and Running Back 1970-1972)
The next player might be the most “freak athlete” Iowa State University will ever see. George Amundson, who played football and also ran track earning seven letters during his time at ISU. Amundson set the school’s discus record during his time in track and field and did not have a bad showing on the football field either. Amundson lead Iowa State to their first bowl game in school history, the 1971 Sun Bowl. At the running back position, he rushed for 1,260 yards and 15 touchdowns. During the next season he switched positions, leading the Cyclones to another bowl game at the quarterback position. Amundson beat out Nebraska’s Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers, for Big Eight player of the year award as well showcasing just how good he was. If that is not enough, Amundson was drafted as the 14th overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft, and still stands as the only Cyclone in school history to be drafted in the first round.
George Veenker (Head Coach 1931-1936 and Athletic Director 1933-1945)
The fourth and final addition to he Mount Rushmore of Iowa State football is also named George, which seems to be a good omen that runs in Ames – see the basketball team’s Georges Niang.
George Veenker was viewed as a “miracle man” for his efforts of turning around the Iowa State football team in 1931. The Cyclones were in the midst of the nations longest losing streak, which was quickly turned around during Veenker’s first year on the job. After dropping 16 games under the previous head coach, Veenker helped the team to a 5-3 record, shocking the Midwest.
Not only did Veenker coach the football team, he was also the athletic director and a strong ambassador for Iowa State Athletics. Under his tenure as AD, Iowa State’s basketball team made it to the 1944 Final Four, which is still the only appearance made in school history. He is also credited with increasing ISU’s budget during the time he was there, and managed to convince the school to build a golf course that still stands today. Shortly after his death in 1959, it was rightfully renamed as Veenker Memorial Golf Course.