Heartbeat of the Heartland: Allen Lazard Takes His Stand on Take A Knee

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Coaches’ teleconferences staged by conferences on a weekly basis offer the media a 10-minute availability for each coach. The participation on these calls has waned with newspapers shrinking staffs, space and coverage. Local beat writers tend to ask their coaches during face-to-face interviews.

But often when there’s a Big Story, the conference calls offer a chance to survey coaches for their opinions. This week on the Big 12 coaches’ call, a reporter started to ask Kansas State coach Bill Snyder about the weekend’s NFL protests during the national anthem.

Snyder shut it down before the question was finished: “I don’t want to go there.”

That’s his First Amendment right. And that right was also exercised by Iowa State senior wide receiver and All-American candidate Allen Lazard. After President Trump lit the fuse with his profane comments about NFL players’ protests Friday night, Lazard took to Twitter Saturday morning.

“Never have I ever been ashamed to be American. It’s disgusting to have the leader of the “free world” like this. #TakeAKnee”

College football, its coaches and administrators are fortunate that, for the majority of the schools, teams remain in the locker room during the national anthem (the NFL didn’t start wrapping itself in the flag and start requiring teams to be on the field for the anthem until 2009 when The Shield figured it could make money from being patriotic).

The college/university experience is designed to be the last few years of learning and experiencing life before actually living it. Campus life is supposed to be about debating issues and trying to figure out what existing in a cold, cruel world is all about.

It appears that Lazard, an Iowa native who decided to stay close to home for an education and the chance to play football, has learned he has a voice.

And of course, his opinion offered on Twitter (he has over 10,000 followers) earned him the requisite criticism.

“You’re a nobody that has done nothing for this country. Congrats you can catch a football. That’s has nothing to do with this country.”

“People that have been blessed with talent to play football should do just that and stay out of politics!”

“If you signed up to defend this country and dodge bullets instead of defenders your view would be a whole lot different! #Disrespectful”

(Writers’ note: Regardless of their vitriol, at least the authors of the three selected Tweets aced spelling and grammar; even the proper use of “you’re” and not “your.” Rare and well done.)

Iowa State had a bye week Saturday and Lazard wasn’t one of the players who met the media to discuss Thursday’s home game with Texas. Two players who met with reporters had Lazard’s back.

“I feel like everybody in this country has a right to voice their opinion,”running back David Montgomery said according to Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune, “and (Lazard is) voicing it. “What’s the point of having freedom if you can’t voice your own opinion?”

“We all see what’s going on,” ISU wide receiver Hakeem Butler said, “and being in college, we talk about it a lot within the team and everywhere. It’s a topic of discussion, and you have to speak up about it. You have to pick a side.”

This is a “third-rail” topic for many. Picking a side can be dangerous. Snyder’s decision to quell a question is understandable. This debate can be considered a “distraction” and coaches despise distractions.

“We’ve got some really bright guys on our team,” ISU coach Matt Campbell said. “We’ve had some really powerful discussions within our walls, really dating back to fall camp.

“I’m a guy that really likes to have those conversations, those discussions because I think it’s important. I think it’s a really important time in our country, and I think leadership and teaching young men what’s going on throughout the world is really, really important rather than just being about football.”

Campbell, 37, is a likeable man who is trying to build a winning program against long odds. Based on that comment, he’s even easier to root for.

End of the ‘Spat’

Apparently some text messages have resolved the “dispute” between Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and his former employee, Texas coach Tom Herman.

Meyer took umbrage with Herman’s comment after the Longhorns lost their season opener to Maryland. Herman, who was Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Ohio State, said that it was wrong to expect he and his staff to “sprinkle fairy dust” on the UT program to turn the team into winners.

“C’mon man. I don’t know where that came from,” Meyer told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. “It’s like a new generation of excuse. [Herman] said, ‘I can’t rub pixie dust on this thing.’ He got a dose of reality. Maryland just scored 51 points on you.”

Meyer also said it drives him “insane” when coaches blame players they inherited from a previous staff. Never mind that Herman wasn’t disparaging the players he inherited. The misunderstanding has been cleared up; The Athletic’s Ari Wasserman reports that Meyer texted Herman to clarify his comments.

“That’s why I don’t do interviews,” Meyer told Wasserman.

A comment that only adds to the mystery and the madness that is Urban Meyer.

Mountaineers Need More Magic

West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has earned a reputation for producing productive defensive units. His 3-3-5 scheme can drive opposing quarterbacks crazy with its varied looks. Despite personnel changes, Gibson has seemingly had a magic touch when it comes to the Mountaineers’ defense.

But as WVU has its bye week before visiting TCU on Oct. 7, there are major concerns. Kansas gained 564 yards in West Virginia’s 56-34 victory and KU running back Khalil Herbert set an opponent rushing record with 291 yards.

“Not good,” Gibson said after the game. “We have to put everybody up and when we drop or guess wrong we get hit for big plays. It’s frustrating at times. I guess replacing eight and nine guys every year has caught up to us.”

The defense also needs to get healthy. Linebacker David Long, safeties Toyous Avery and Kyzir White plus cornerback Mike Daniels either didn’t play or were sidelined during the Kansas game.

“The off week couldn’t come at a better time,” Gibson said. “We have to get healthy. Will probably have to have our meetings in the training room.”

Quick Slants

• A big reason for TCU’s upset victory at Oklahoma State was the combined seven turnovers (four) and sacks (three). The Frogs lead the Big 12 in takeaways (nine) and sacks (11) with 20.

• Going into Saturday’s game with Oklahoma, Baylor sophomore receiver Denzel Mims had 11 career receptions. He torched the Sooners’ secondary for 11 catches for 192 yards and three touchdowns.

• Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield leads FBS with 13 touchdown passes without an interception. The next highest total is eight.

• TCU coach Gary Patterson became the fifth active coach at a Power Five school to win a game in every stadium in their conference. The others: Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio.

• Here’s another example of lawyers making money thanks to silly disputes. Last week it was announced that Oklahoma State and Ohio State agreed to end a dispute over the use of “OSU.” The schools agreed to peacefully co-exist in regards to using the acronym on apparel. Ohio State had attempted to legally own the trademark for itself. No doubt Oregon State feels left out – but at least it didn’t incur legal fees.

• Chris Daniels, a redshirt freshman defensive tackle, has been granted his release from Texas and intends to transfer. He never played a down for the Longhorns. He’s the sixth player of the 24-member 2016 recruiting class, the last signed by former coach Charlie Strong, to leave the program.

• Oklahoma State has set a record for season-ticket sales with 50,300 sold. That broke the previous record of 50,223 set in 2013. Boone Pickens Stadium’s official capacity is 60,218.

• Kansas sophomore running back Khalil Herbert posted the best yardage total of an FBS running back this season with his 291 yards against West Virginia. That’s the third-most rushing yards in a game in KU history as Herbert surpassed the 283 yards Gale Sayers posted in 1962.

Coach Speak

Baylor first-year coach Matt Rhule on Kansas State, his team’s opponent Saturday:

“Tough, hard-nosed, physical, disciplined. They present tremendous challenges for you schematically on offense with a quarterback who can run and throw. They are well put together. Every side of the ball complements each other. My kind of football team. If I could think of exactly what I would want a football team to look like, it would be them.”

Kansas coach David Beaty after his team dropped to 1-3 with a 56-34 loss at home to West Virginia Saturday:

“I am seeing improvement, which is good. Very discouraged by that fourth quarter, because that’s not how I felt like that game should have ended up. We’re getting better in a lot of areas. We’re just not there yet. I hate it for our fans. I hate it for our stakeholders, because they deserve better than that. There’s a lot of improvement in areas, just not enough yet.”

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, whose 3-0 team appears to have a defense now and is No. 2 in the country in turnover margin:

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the way the defense is taking the ball away,” Kingsbury said. “That’s the key to our conference. You look at the teams that have won the league the last few years and they’re way up there in the turnover margin, and that’s where we’re trying to get to give [ourselves] a chance in every game in the Big 12.”