Just over a year ago, when Iowa State officially kicked off their 2018 football season with a trip to take on in-state rival Iowa, Cyclone fans thought the opening game of the season would bring on a new beginning and a fresh start for the program.
But by the time the clock hit zero and Iowa State was handed its first loss of the season, it was already the end for one player's starting role for the Cyclones. That player was Kyle Kempt.
Kempt, a walk-on for Iowa State in 2016, came into the 2018 season looking to finish his final year of eligibility as the starting quarterback on the depth chart after having one of the most memorable seasons a Cyclone quarterback has had in 2017.
Kempt became a household name in Ames in 2017 after he led the Cyclones to two upset wins over No. 3 Oklahoma in his first career start and a win over No. 9 TCU three weeks later.
Kempt threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns for Iowa State against the Sooners and ended the 2017 season with 15 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
So when Iowa State began their 2018 season at Iowa, Kempt entered the game as the starter moving forward.
However, Kempt suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter, resulting in Zeb Noland having to finish the game for Iowa State.
Once Noland took over as quarterback, Kempt would only attempt 10 more passes at Iowa State with younger quarterbacks Noland and Brock Purdy starting the rest of the games for the 2018 season.
Kempt's final season for the Cyclones was virtually over after one game. After a Cinderella 2017 season, Kempt was stuck in the backup role, leading from the the meeting room and the sidelines.
"Getting hurt and going through that situation, it opened another door for me," Kempt said. "I am just thankful I was able to find something great out of that situation. I am passionate about this and really excited to help the team out."
The opportunity Kempt is so passionate about was announced earlier this summer, when head coach Matt Campbell announced that Kempt and Joel Lanning would be returning to the program as quality control assistants.
Campbell announced Kempt would be returning to help the offense as a whole and mentor Brock Purdy as he transitions into being the full-time starter for the Cyclones at quarterback in 2019.
"Obviously we all talk about Kyle and what happened with Oklahoma," Campbell said. "I see Kyle’s greatest asset and moment as when he got hurt and then he turned on his natural ability to mentor and coach Brock and take a back seat and say 'I’m going to help you wherever you want to go.'"
Campbell said that Kempt has been a leader and staple of the program since the first day he arrived. Kempt's love for the game and natural ability to coach are things that are clear to see, he added.
"[Kempt] has the right heart and mentality to coach," Campbell said. "He has the right type of leadership that has allowed our team to grow immensely."
When the announcement came in July, Campbell said that both Kempt and Lanning had expressed long term interest in coaching. Campbell said at the time that returning to Ames will allow both of them to grow and kick start their potential new paths as coaches in college football.
"This will be a great first step for them as they initiate their coaching careers and they will be a valuable asset to our coaching staff and players," Campbell said.
Helping his teammates was on Kempt's mind before he even came close to starting for the Cyclones, but after the knee injury cut his final season at Iowa State short, he realized that helping his teammates develop was something he would want to do.
Kempt's desire to help his teammates paid off, as he took then-freshmen Purdy under his wing and played a huge role in his historic rookie season. With Kempt's help, Purdy set an NCAA record in passing efficiency (169.9) for a first-year quarterback.
"When I wasn't the starting quarterback I always found a way to help out the other guys in the quarterback room," said Kempt. "When I got hurt in my final year, I got the opportunity to help coach in the QB room with Coach [Joel] Gordon. That's when I realized this was something I really wanted to do."
Once the 2018 season came to and end, Kempt's time with Iowa State football might have been over, but the NFL came calling.
Kempt was invited to attend New Orleans Saints rookie minicamp this summer but did not make the roster once cuts were made for rookies and undrafted invites.
While he did get a 'no' from the NFL, Kempt's pursuit of sticking around the game only grew until he found his way back to the place that his football story reached its greatest impact — Iowa State.
Kempt is just happy to give back to a program that has provided him a chance to play college football at a high level and under leadership that has had a major impact on his life.
"With all of the events that have happened with coach Campbell helping me out, I now have the chance to give back to the program that gave me so many opportunities," Kempt said. "To be able to work under a coach as great as coach Campbell, who is considered one of the best in the nation, is really special."