AMES — A chilly mist fell on the high school practice field not much after 6 on a September 2019 morning. Determined West Sioux football players were working out for a season they hoped would result in a trip to the Class 1-A state championship game.
One of the biggest and strongest players on this powerhouse team trotted over to me, mist still pelting both of us. We talked about the prospects for the season. We talked about his family. And finally we got around to the reason for this possibly being my first-ever visit to Hawarden.
Hunter Dekkers was headed to Iowa State. I wanted to meet the guy who would be the heir to Brock Purdy — the guy who likely would end up replacing the best quarterback in Cyclones’ history.
“That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to — to learning as much as I can from Brock,” I recall Dekkers telling me during that interview.
When Trevor Downing makes the first snap — interestingly, his first as a season-opening center — the guy on the other end will be be ushering in a new era of Iowa State football.
“Brock's done a great job of mentoring me — for preparing me for that moment,” Dekkers said at Iowa State’s media day Tuesday. “I don't feel any pressure of replacing him, because I know that I'm never going to play like he does.”
The strong-armed lefty (Purdy was a right-hander) has been preparing a long time for this season. He spent extra sessions in the film room with Purdy and quarterbacks coach Joel Gordon — before Purdy became a seventh-round NFL draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers. He studied, then re-studied, and that’s just the mental side.
What Dekkers has done with his body in conjunction with strength coach Dave Andrews and nutritionist Rachel Voet is off the charts. How else do you explain a 50-pound weight loss since arriving on campus as a freshman? Why would he drop 20 pounds between media day 2021 and media day 2022?
Because he knew eventually this offense would be his.
“The guy’s been great,” cornerback Tayvonn Kyle said about the player sitting near him at an interview table. “Just look at him. He looks great.”
Looks great. Feels great. That’s the idea for the strong northwest Iowa farm kid.
“Bigger, stronger and faster,” said Dekkers, who carries 206 pounds on his muscular 6-foot-3-inch frame. “I’ll use that to my advantage whenever I have to.”
Whether it’s running or throwing, Dekkers is different than Purdy, who played at 6-1 and 220 pounds. Who gets the call on third-and-goal from the one-yard line, Dekkers or 220-pound tailback Jirehl Brock?
“It better be me,” Jirehl said, laughing.
I asked Dekkers the same question. After going the diplomatic route, he finally opened up — a smidge.
“If I had to pick one, I would say me,” Dekkers said.
He’s the highest-ranked quarterback recruit in Iowa State history — or at least since the star system captured everyone’s fancy in the early 2000s. His seven-game career includes completing 25 of 43 passes for 311 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. It includes seven rushes for 73 yards and a touchdown. He completed 11 of 16 passes and a touchdown while playing the fourth quarter against Iowa last season.
“Hunter is very talented,” coach Matt Campbell said. “He's certainly got a strong arm. He's got great athletic ability, but a quarterback is way more than that.
“It's the whole picture. And it's the whole puzzle, and what's going to be really fun is to see, even as we get through fall camp, how much Hunter grows in the offense — how much he’s ready to continue to evolve and, really, be ready to capture what it takes to play the quarterback position at this level.”
Dekkers is confident he’ll be ready by the Sept. 3 opener against Southeast Missouri at Jack Trice Stadium. Everyone is confident.
“One of the last things Brock told me, was that he hopefully taught me ways of handling both the good and the bad,” Dekkers said. “That, to me, was interesting. It was very well put.
“There's going to be some differences, like for sure in the vertical game, but there’s more to it than just that. It’s how you handle all the situations. Brock was very good at that.”
He’ll be the first Iowan to take the first Iowa State snap in a season-opening game since Joel Lanning in 2016. He's replacing a guy who re-wrote Iowa State's quarterback record book.
“Our family is so excited,” Hunter’s mom, Jami, told me this week. “When Hunter runs on the field this year as the Iowa State starting quarterback, it’s going to be a flood of emotions. Just thinking about it, I get nervous, excited. We’re all super proud.
“Watching Hunter have the opportunity to do what he loves, surrounded by the best teammates and coaches, and in front of all of the amazing Iowa State fans, is overwhelming to think about.”
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson embarked on his 50th year of writing sports for the Des Moines Register in December 2021. Reach him at email@example.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Quarterback Hunter Dekkers ushers in a new era of Iowa State football