Being "so proud" is so yesterday at Iowa State.
These days, raising the standard is the buzzword. Or, #RaiseTheStandard, rather.
Since making a bowl game in 2012, the Cyclones were just 6-30 in Big 12 play entering this season. Under Paul Rhoads, the program's claim to fame was playing spoiler.
It happened in 2009, when the Cyclones forced eight turnovers and knocked off a 10-win Nebraska team in Lincoln for the school's first win at Memorial Stadium since 1977 against their longtime Big Eight and Big 12 North rival/tormentor. It happened again in 2011, when the Cyclones helped usher in college football's playoff era by upsetting undefeated Oklahoma State as a 26-point underdog, leading to one of the worst and least-anticipated national championship games of the BCS era.
Iowa State hadn't had a memorable, eternal highlight since then, so when the Cyclones knocked off Oklahoma in Norman for the first time since 1990, and did so as a 31-point underdog, it struck a familiar tone.
But this Iowa State season has been anything but familiar.
The Cyclones have won four in a row and showed up at No. 15 in the first College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday. At 4-1 in the conference, they're in the driver's seat in the Big 12 title race, too, entering Saturday's trip to West Virginia. Four teams are tied atop the standings, but the Cyclones have tiebreakers over two of the other three, after wrestling with TCU for 60 minutes and pinning Gary Patterson's Horned Frogs for a 14-7 win, knocking off yet another undefeated team with playoff aspirations.
Along the way, they've grown into college football's best story of the season and turned coach Matt Campbell into one of the sport's budding stars. Just like Rhoads, he can go viral, too. If you follow a coach of almost any sport on social media anywhere, they probably reposted the clip of Campbell addressing his team in the locker room:
"You are teaching the world that in this sport of college football, toughness, discipline, and details still matter," Campbell said. "That is your platform. Your platform is that it is team above self. That is the platform that you're using, and nobody wants to buy into that in our culture today. Our culture says that it is all about me. Our culture says, 'Screw the process, I want instant gratification.' But here is a fact, and young guys listen to me, if you fall in love with the process, then eventually the process will love you back."
Most often, coaches waxing poetic about the ills of society draws eye rolls and a glance at the clock to see how long they've been yapping. But in Campbell's case, at least, it rings truer than most. He started 1-8 in 2016, and only a 66-10 win over Texas Tech offered any forecast of 2017's breakout.
"That's what's fun about this team," Campbell said. "There's been a lot of painful days. There's a lot of sacrifice in the months that nobody watched us that's allowed us to steer clear of what anybody says outside of our walls and just come in here with a purpose."
The Cyclones as a whole have become one of the game's best stories, but it's hard to pick the best story within the roster itself. There's the Iowa native in Allen Lazard who came to Ames as one of the school's highest-rated recruits ever. He's grown into an NFL prospect but came back for one more year to help Campbell build the foundation.
Or there's Joel Lanning, who spent most of last year as the starting quarterback only to move to middle linebacker in the offseason and ascend to starter, where he's sixth nationally with 87 tackles. This, despite not playing a lick of defense since the eighth grade. And now, he's back playing quarterback on occasion, too.
Kyle Kempt has been a key catalyst for the Cyclones' four-game winning streak that included two wins over top-five teams, the first time a team has done that in a month since LSU in 2011. He walked on at Iowa State when Campbell took over and, in four seasons of college football, had thrown two career passes before leading the Cyclones to a 38-31 upset of Oklahoma. His 25-yard toss to Lazard provided the game's decisive score, too.
"You owe everything to those guys," Campbell said. "They're why we're winning."
Iowa State fans stormed the field after Saturday's win, and getting to bowl eligibility for the first time in five years was hardly more than a footnote. But thus far, Campbell sounds mostly unimpressed about what the Cyclones have already done and more concerned about what's ahead.
He sounds crazy now, but so did Art Briles when he said, "We're going to win the Big 12 championship and go from there," on the day he was introduced as Baylor's coach. Campbell isn't quite as forthcoming with bold proclamations, but #RaiseTheStandard is a nod to what he hopes lies ahead. Barely making bowl games and playing spoiler isn't enough. And if an enterprising school wants to try to interrupt and hire him away, it'll cost $9.3 million to buy him out of his contract and do it. Earlier this year, FootballScoop.com couldn't find a school that paid more than $3 million to buy a coach out of a contract.
The Cyclones have natural limitations as the smaller, less historically successful Power Five team in a state that lacks top talent in recruiting, but Campbell sounds and acts like a coach looking to create his own legacy somewhere in the mold of conference rivals like Mike Gundy and Gary Patterson, rather than build on what someone else has already accomplished at an established national power.
"Our margin of error and who we are as a football team," Campbell said, "we have to do the little things better than anybody else."
He's already off to a great start, doing things nobody's seen at Ames.
So proud? Sure, Campbell's proud. But he wants a lot more, and he sounds ready to build a team capable of doing it.