Re-al Mitchell spent the offseason training, watching film, fielding scholarship offers and taking unofficial visits. And following his commitment to Iowa State on May 1, the 2018 three-star dual-threat quarterback spent time telling anyone who'd listen that the Cyclones were going to "shock college football" this season.
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His proclamations were met with skepticism and rebuttals that Iowa State would hardly improve, if at all, from their three-win 2017 season. There are no more rebuttals following the Cyclones' 5-2 start and sudden entrance into the Big 12 Championship discussion.
"After my first visit to Iowa State I was blown away by the Cyclone community," he told HERO Sports of the first of three visits he's taken since March. "Every [FBS] university has the facilities and academics but Iowa State seemed to have something I had never experienced at any other college."
Mitchell is one of 15 three-star commits in Iowa State's 16-man 2018 class. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder from St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif., is the 21st-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the nation (247Sports). He called picking the Cyclones a "no-brainer" and would be the program's highest-rated quarterback signee since Grant Rohach in 2012.
"The relationships [the coaching staff] established with myself and family were by far the strongest out of all the schools recruiting me," he added. "Coach Campbell sold me on his vision for the future of the program, and I genuinely felt that I could contribute to his dream. After hanging out with the players and seeing their work ethic and the culture Coach Campbell had been preaching about, committing to Iowa State was a no-brainer."
The group of commits stay in touch through various text and social media threads, and while they're ecstatic over Iowa State's first 5-2 start since 2002 and top-25 ranking since 2005, no one is surprised. The feeling is "I told you so," says Mitchell.
"When I was there and got to see what they were about, I knew it would be a matter of time before they start playing really well," said Sean Shaw Jr., a three-star receiver from Jones, Okla., who visited for their Week 1 win over Northern Iowa and committed two weeks later.
Shaw said Ames felt like home and lauded the coaching staff's attention to the players, calling Matt Campbell is an "amazing guy." The college football world agrees, prompting pundits like Kirk Herbstreit to declare, "He's gone."
“They don’t have anything to worry about," Campbell said in response to Herbstreit. "The frustration part of comments like that are that it discredits this university and this football (program). …We’ve got just as much opportunity to do elite things as anybody in college football, and I think we’re proving it one day at a time right now.”
His message is reaching recruits, who aren't worried he'd leave for another program.
"I feel like he wouldn't do that without telling the commits and the coaches," said Shaw. "…Him and the whole staff have been together for a while and I really don't see them breaking apart. It's like a family between them, so I don't feel like he would be leaving anytime soon."
"I highly doubt he'd leave so it doesn't bother me," Mitchell said, adding he hasn't even heard such chatter.
Campbell said he left Toledo for Iowa State to build the program, and they've only begun laying the foundation for unprecedented success. If the foundation is any indication of what is to come for Iowa State football, Mitchell won't have to spend more offseasons telling people about the Cyclones.