Gridiron 2011 Fiesta Bowl Ring final

Greg Eisworth wanted to take a moment off by himself to reflect.

The stalwart safety for the Cyclones has lived through the highs and lows of Big 12 football in his three seasons in Ames, and had just received his Fiesta Bowl ring.

As the rest of his teammates posed with their rings and ran around the room asking to snap pictures of the hardware for their Instagram pages to officially cap off their historic Fiesta Bowl victory that went down three months before, Eisworth decided to take in the personal pride he had in truly seeing his hard work in the palm of his hand.

Amidst all the noise and warranted commotion, a sense of calm and inner reflection was needed.

“I waited till the very end to open mine on my own and take it all in,” Eisworth said. “It’s really personal to me and I wanted to enjoy it more and have a chance on my own to reflect on the season.”

Iowa State players and coaches had their grand unveiling of the rings back in late April at the Sukup Endzone Club, with each player accepting their ring from head coach Matt Campbell, along with other academic and Big 12 awards.

Tight end Chase Allen said the ring ceremony in April was significant for many reasons. After redshirting his first season in Ames due to a car accident in 2016, and having to sit out and watch a 3-9 season for the Cyclones, Allen said to see where the program has ended up after receiving his Fiesta Bowl ring was a special experience. Allen had earned a Liberty Bowl ring after the Cyclones’ win over Memphis in the 2017 season, but admitted the Fiesta Bowl ring had a higher degree of flashiness and importance to it. In fact, the whole ring unveiling seemed to have a holiday atmosphere about it.

“It was kind of like Christmas,” Allen said. “There was lots of hardware being handed out that day.”

‘It’s in your hands’

Before the rings could be given to the Cyclones, somebody had to design them. That job would be given to Allen and Eisworth from Coach Campbell himself. According to Allen, Campbell said that after such an important moment for the program, especially for the seniors who had stayed and built the program through thick and thin, the ring’s creation should be player-driven.

Allen and Eisworth have been labeled as transformational players in Campbell’s process to make the Cyclones a winner. After all, Allen joined the program after a 3-9 season in 2015, only to redshirt in 2016 for another 3-9 record. He’s worked to get to this point. Eisworth may not be as long-standing a member of the program as Allen, but his impact has been just as significant.

“Greg is one of those young men for us that has been what I would call a transformational leader,” Campbell said at Big 12 media day in July. “Iowa State Football would not be where it is without Greg's leadership. He's been a transformer and really proud of everything that he stands for on and off the field.”

Allen remembers being told that he and Greg were requested to meet Campbell in his office — not an unusual instance considering both players often meet with their head coach to discuss leadership and ways to make the program better. But this occasion was different. Campbell had a special task in mind for the two.

“We had a call to come up to his office and when he told us, we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’d be honored!’” Allen said.

Chase Allen West Virginia 2020

Iowa State tight end Chase Allen moves after the catch against West Virginia on Saturday in Jack Trice Stadium. Iowa State won 42-6 and clinched a berth in the Big 12 Championship.

Eisworth and Allen talked about the general design of the ring for about an hour and looked through five different samples given to them of what the ring could look like before the details were added in. The five initial samples had the Iowa State logo on the top, with the idea being the logo should be front and center, no matter what the final design might be.

“I was honored to have that opportunity,” Eisworth said when reflecting on when Campbell tasked them with the ring design. “Coach pretty much said it’s in your guys’ hands, you make the big decisions. And so I really took time to figure out, ‘How can I best encapsulate what our team was about last year?'”

The two discussed what they thought embodied the 2020 season for the Cyclones, the biggest of which were the soon to be trademarked “five-star culture”, as well as the long-standing legacy of Jack Trice. After nailing down what they wanted, Eisworth said they picked one of the five samples and added their ideas. A few weeks later, three mock-ups were sent back for the duo to look at and they eventually picked their favorite to be officially created.

So what were some of the important details Allen and Eisworth wanted to last forever on the historic rings? One of the team’s favorite features, including the ring designers themselves, is the inclusion of the Jack Trice stripes. The inside of the rings include chevron bars representing the jersey Trice wore in 1923 with the words, "We Will" inscribed.

“My favorite part of it is the Jack Trice stripes,” Allen said. “We wanted to keep those conversations we started last summer going and we wanted him to live on with our historic win.”

Trice’s long-lasting message of courage and commitment has lived with the team even before 2020, but Eisworth said the national rise in awareness of social justice issues leading up to the season made Trice’s story even more important for how the Cyclones approached their historic year.

“That’s the history of our university and our football team and everybody is honestly inspired by it,” Eisworth said. “We knew that would have to be somewhere in there.”

After Iowa State walked into Austin, Texas, on Nov. 27 and took down the Longhorns to essentially punch their ticket to the Big 12 Championship, Breece Hall would utter the phrase that would lead Iowa State to the end of the 2020 season: “Five-star culture.”

Those three words rang through national media circles and the Cyclones’ locker room, making it clear to everyone what kind of mission they were on and what kind of players would lead them to get there.

“And obviously the ‘Five-star culture’ comment was born last year and we lived with that mentality so we wanted that on there for sure,” Allen said.

Rounding out the other elements of the ring include the 2020 team record (9-3), the score of the Fiesta Bowl (34-17), the team’s final AP ranking (No.8), and five stars signifying the team's "Five-Star Culture."

‘Now it’s just motivation’

Every morning, Eisworth wakes up and sees his Fiesta Bowl ring laying on his desk next to his bed. It’s a daily reminder to push himself and his teammates. After all, there’s much more to accomplish before he wraps up his Cyclone career.

“Now it’s just motivation,” Eisworth said. “It looks kind of lonely by itself up there. I’m already thinking of what finger I want for my next one.”

Greg Eisworth Camping World Bowl Rally

Then-junior defensive back Greg Eisworth spoke to the fans and lead them in singing "Happy Birthday" to quarterback Brock Purdy at the Camping World Bowl fan pep rally.

The ring usually stays in its new home on his desk, with the ring’s big design features and diamonds bringing plenty of attention to itself whenever Eisworth decides to wear it out in public or when he went back home for two weeks during the offseason. Eisworth is one of the more outwardly reserved members of the experienced Cyclones and said his laid-back approach doesn’t lend itself to finding moments where wearing his ring doesn't come off as potentially boastful for him.

“It does have a lot going on,” Eisworth said.

Allen is proud of what the ring represents and the sacrifice it took to earn it, but he’s always been the type of guy to not dwell on the past. A win in the Fiesta Bowl showed clear signs the program has taken the step it was hoping for when Allen first chose to come to the struggling Cyclones, but Campbell and his veteran leadership like Allen won’t let 2020’s accomplishments be celebrated too much longer.

It’s time to go to work to earn another one. Or maybe, something better than that.

“The players are trying to move on to this year now,” Allen said. “Last year was last year.”

The ring’s motivation is warranted, with the Cyclones coming into the 2021 season with high external expectations and sold-out season tickets. And Eisworth points out that there is a sense of urgency with this year’s team to reach their goals with so many players moving on once the season comes to an end.

The Fiesta Bowl ring is nice, but the Cyclones can see there’s more on the horizon. Those aspirations aren’t a secret for Eisworth, who said it’s not an accident Iowa State has so much returning in 2021 on both sides of the ball.

“A lot of the guys have been saying, ‘Let’s go get two next season.’”

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