ISU football coach Matt Campbell chose Iowa State because of the fans. Last weekend, he and his football team, were able to give back to the fans and the community.
The Iowa Special Olympics was in Ames from Thursday, May 19 to Saturday, May 21. The events were held on the east side of campus on the Forker Tennis courts, Lied Recreation Center and the Maple-Willow-Larch Intramural Fields.
The crowing jewel was the opening ceremonies inside Hilton Coliseum on May 19.
Campbell and a number of his players were outside Hilton Coliseum before the opening ceremonies greeting fans, taking pictures and signing autographs.
He said being able to give back to the community like this means a lot to him and his team.
“We love it,” said Nick Uhlenhopp, assistant director of football operations. “During the fall, and during the six or seven home games we have, we have 60,000 fans that come out [to a game]. For us to have a chance to go out and support them, and being here and supporting these athletes here at the Special Olympics, is awesome for us. Our kids love to do it.”
Normally, the team only gets to connect with the fans from Story County and the fans in the Des Moines area. At the Special Olympics, they got to connect with fans from everywhere in Iowa.
“It’s awesome to be able to connect with fans from [northwest Iowa], Cedar Rapids and all over Iowa,” Campbell said. “It means a lot.”
The next day, on May 20, the ISU football team showed up to the Games. They played catch with the athletes, rebounded basketballs and had dance competitions.
Nothing topped last year, when former linebacker Levi Peter’s painted his face like a tiger, but the players loved interacting with the athletes and fans.
“De’Monte Ruth and Brian Peavy had a dance off to get this whole thing started,” Uhlenhopp said. “There were two kids over here, and [Ruth and Peavy] started dancing, now there’s 20 kids here dancing. It’s awesome.”
Offensive lineman Jake Campos spent the majority of his time at the basketball hoop rebounding basketballs and passing the balls back out.
He was all smiles.
“It’s all about caring, it’s all about giving,” Campos said. “You get an extra ball, you give it to someone else. There’s all kinds of great things people are doing out here.”
The fans love it, but it gives the athletes a chance to go out and forget about lifting and school.
“It does good for our kids hearts,” Uhlenhopp said. “They like to get out and have fun. They’re acting like little kids now. They’re just having fun right now. It’s good for them too.”
Because people from all over Iowa attend the event, that means Iowa Hawkeye fans attend too.
“It’s really good to see people from different places,” Campos said. “You get a different perspective on things. You have the Iowa fans coming in, and it’s fun to talk back and forth with them. It’s a good time.”
Campos doesn’t trash talk with Iowa fans, but there is some trash talking that happens.
“A little bit [on their part], yeah,” Campos said with a laugh. “More than you’d expect.”