AMES — A few years ago, Kane Seeley could sit in the shade under the tents in Jack Trice Stadium’s north end zone and have an easy go of it during Media Day. Not now.
Seeley is a redshirt senior, and, along with close friend and placekicker Cole Netten, is the only member of the recruiting class of 2012 to have appeared in each quarter of all 36 games over the past three seasons.
A burly 6-2 and 235 pounds, Seeley is listed as first on the depth chart at the ‘Mike’ (middle) linebacker spot. He had 23 tackles (12 solo) last season, including seven stops and a forced fumble against Oklahoma (he made nine denials against the Sooners as a sophomore) and caught a five-yard pass for a first down on a fake punt at West Virginia.
“Kane earned the job out of spring camp,” head coach Matt Campbell said. “That is a credit to his work ethic, his toughness and his approach to the game of football.”
ISU will switch from a three-man defensive front to having four d-lineman on most plays, a system which requires the middle linebacker to be stout, and aggressive, against the run.
“We have really been focusing on flowing to the ball and attacking our spots,” Seeley said. “We can’t really say much about what exactly our scheme is, but lets just say it is aggressive, and I like that.”
Campbell took over this winter for Paul Rhodes and brought with him an entirely new staff. While such a total change is tough on all players, it can be especially difficult on seniors, for two reasons: they have spent three years learning one system that must now be exchanged for a new approach, and, being the former coaches’ recruits, are sometimes given short leashes by new coaches who know they only have a year left to play.
Seeley said he has taken it all in stride.
“I like the new coaches and they have been very fair and very helpful to me,” he said. “I have tried to make sure I set a positive example for the younger guys both on and off the field. When I got here I looked to the older guys to see how to act and how things worked and I know the younger guys kind of look to me a bit, so I want to make sure I set the best example.”
Campbell and his staff have placed an emphasis on the use, and the proper conduct expected, of the players regarding social media and in their interactions with the community, an area in which Seeley excels, as he is often involved with charity and youth-related activities. Seeley has excelled in the classroom, earning First Team All-Big 12 Academic honors as a freshman and a junior while making the Second Team as a sophomore.
The coach lauded Seeley’s ability to communicate well on the field, both with the lineman and others on the defense.
“The ‘Mike’ has to be able to recognize things and communicate them to others and Kane has shown a real good understanding of that, which you would expect from a senior and a guy who has played in 36 games,” Campbell said. “That ability to communicate is key to leadership and Kane has it.”
Seeley said he knew he was being pushed for playing time and said he accepted the challenge.
“It is no different now than when I got here,” he said. “At this level everyone is big, everyone is strong and fast. If you want it, you have to work for it and earn it. I have no problem with that.”
Luke Knott and Levi Peters both opted not to play this year (as seniors) because of recurring injuries, and some have said Seeley had been gifted his spot. Not so, Campbell said.
“I am going to play the best player, and I don’t care if it is a freshman or a senior — the best player is going to play,” he said. “Part of why Kane earned his position is his incredible work ethic and his approach. You look at what he did in high school, you look at what he did as a wrestler, and that tells you all you need to know.
“Is he the most gifted athlete we have? No, and he would be the first to tell you that,” Campbell continued. “But he has the necessary talent and has made himself better each year. Yes, other guys are pushing him, but so far all that has done is made him elevate his game, and that is what I want to see out of every player at every position.”
Campbell said he is always preaching consistency: Be consistently good in practice and you will become consistently great, and that will carry over to game time.
“Playing against the teams we are going to play means you cannot miss a beat,” he said. “You have to be at your best every single moment, period. No excuses. I am looking for guys willing to commit to what it takes to reach that level, where every thing you do is the best you can possibly do it.”
Being one of the “old guys” on the team and having new coaches is just one of several changes for Seeley this season. Netten was married over the summer, so Seeley exchanged one Ankeny-grad roomie for another — starting quarterback Joel Lanning. Seeley — who will join his friend as a married man next summer — also graduated six months ago, so post-grad academics is also a change.
“There are so many things that are different this season,” he said, “but I think having the experience of being here for so long has helped me adjust. It is not a problem, just different.”
Seeley said the team’s goal for the season was to “live up to our potential.”
“We don’t know what that is yet, so we are going to push as hard as we can and see if we can’t live up to it (potential) and have a good season,” he said. “I want us to go to a bowl game and win it. That would be a great way to go out.”
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