AMES- Was someone cutting onions at Jack Trice Stadium?
That's the question Matt Campbell was likely asking himself as he watched cornerstone players like Chase Allen, Charlie Kolar and Brock Purdy take the field at Jack Trice Stadium one last time Friday.
Seniors hope to blaze trails in the real world akin to those blazed in Ames over the last few years, as they provided the most competitive string of seasons Iowa State has ever seen.
However, defensive coordinator Jon Heacock believes it was more than that.
After the game Friday, Campbell spoke about Heacock's words to his team and delivered them to the public, showing just how important the Cyclones have been to the people surrounding them.
"Coach Heacock said something really powerful to our kids [Thursday] night," Campbell said. "And I think he was right on. He said 'for the last five years, Iowa State football, every time they went on to the field and played, they've given everybody something to hope for, something to live for and something to love for.'"
The hope and the life has been seen in waves, particularly in the last two years. A Fiesta Bowl victory, a Big 12 regular season title and expectations never-before-seen were proof of that.
But the love has been a bit harder to quantify or see with your own eyes.
It's clear that the Iowa State community loves this team and they loved them when everything seemed hopeless.
Then, this video hit the Twitter-verse, and the love for Matt Campbell and his players seemed to reach a whole new apex.
Campbell had nowhere to hide as tears welled in his eyes and cameras were everywhere. But it doesn't look like he was trying to hide.
It's no secret this senior class meant a lot to him and this team. Just compare the starters from this year to next year and you'll see. Or compare records for any five-year span in Iowa State history. That should be a good indicator as well.
But it was always more than filling rosters and putting wins in the win column. Campbell and his team proved that with their dominant 7-5 win against TCU to finish the season.
The tears, the joy and the emotional words shared proved that it was more than tangible things that the fans can see.
It was the bonds shared, and the memories made. It was Brock Purdy, breaking more records than can be counted, but always seen more as the personality and the character that this team needed.
Take Breece Hall for another example. He had one of the best games Iowa State has ever seen, but the stats seemed pale in comparison to the moments shared with his head coach and his mother after breaking the record.
An emotional Senior Day was the most public and meaningful display of the 'love' Heacock referred to when speaking with his team. Even the Grinch's heart would've grown at the sight of the even-keeled Campbell as emotional as he was.
All of the records, all of the glamour and national pundits finally turning the way of the Cyclones may not have resulted in another big step forward. In fact, they took a step back strictly based on record.
However, I don't think any of the true Cyclone faithful, or even the Cyclones themselves, cared about whether or not they go 6-6 or 7-5. It was all about making sure they soaked up every single moment.
There's been a lot of worry that has surfaced with whether or not Campbell will stay in Ames or leave for what the national media sees as "greener pastures" in the form of California, Louisiana or Florida.
That worry, however, was nowhere to be found on the field as Iowa State ran up the score.
Nothing mattered except for Campbell, his seniors and the players that made his tenure so special.
The offseason awaits, and many questions will be posed. Those questions will eventually get answered and the 2021-22 season may look a lot different.
But that's for a different day. Friday was about celebration. And boy, was there plenty of it.