AMES, Iowa — Once upon a time, Rodney Coe was a punishing, 230-pound running back who played in the Army All-American game and commited to the University of Iowa.
Alas, he didn’t quite make the grade when it came time to join the Hawkeyes and ended up at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.
There, Coe grew. And grew. And grew.
In fact, he outgrew the running back position at 260 pounds and was moved to defensive end. Somewhere along the way, Iowa’s interest faded, according to Coe.
Enter Iowa State, whose coaches saw an elite athlete with a unique set of skills who was, literally, growing into a new position.
The Cyclones convinced Coe that he could be an impact player in the Big 12 — as a defensive tackle — and when Iowa State lines up for its season-opener Aug. 31 against Northern Iowa, the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Coe will get his chance to make that impact as part of a defensive line rotation that is deep in unproven talent.
Inside, redshirt freshmen Pierre Aka (6-4, 273), Devlyn Cousin (6-1, 297) and Coe join veterans Brandon Jensen, Walter Woods and Austin Krick.
Outside, redshirt freshman Mitchell Meyers (6-4, 253) and Iowa Western transfer Cory Morrissey (6-4, 249) are in the mix for playing time at defensive end, where they join a group that includes senior Willie Scott, junior David Irving and sophomores Nick Kron and Devin Lemke of Iowa Falls-Alden.
How well Iowa State plays up front will be a key as the Cyclones rebuild a defense that lost five starters from a year ago, including nose tackle Jake McDonough and current NFL linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein.
“As much as our front seven lags behind, the defensive end position is out front,” says Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads. “Defensive tackle is where we really need to understand who we are. Cousin and Pierre Aka haven’t played a snap of football in an Iowa State uniform and are going to be counted on right away to be doing exactly that. Walter Woods is going into his fifth campaign. He needs to play like a player who’s been in Iowa State’s program for five years. Brandon Jensen is doing a nice job at this point, and we’re really happy with Rodney Coe and his transition from running back to JC defensive lineman to four-year college defensive tackle.
“He’s shown a maturity probably above and beyond what most fall JC transfers come in with.”
“I’m excited that I’m finally here and happy I’m done with the process I had to go through to get here,” says Coe, who is from Fulton, Mo.
It’s taken some time for him to embrace his transition on the field from offense to defense. In fact, he still wears a number more often found on the other side of the ball — No. 9.
“At first I really wasn’t seeing it,” admits Coe. “It kind of didn’t sit with me well when I first thought about not playing runningback or playing offense because that’s what I did my whole life.
“Once I did make the realization, it was kind of like, ‘You know what? That’s where I’m gonna be if I want to keep playing football.’ Once I got in that mindset, I decided to take the thing and run with it.
“I’m actually enjoying it and having fun.”
As for the added weight, Coe is making the best of that, too.
“I really didn’t try to grow this way,” he notes. “It just happened. I’m just trying to carry the weight as good as I can. I don’t want to be a sloppy 305.”
Whether Iowa State becomes a dream come true for Coe remains to be seen, but it’s an intriguing story with a lead character who will carry a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
One game Coe is looking forward to comes Sept. 14 when Iowa visits Jake Trice Stadium.
“Actually, I think about it all the time,” he says. “When I was at Council Bluffs at Iowa Western, I probably only talked to Iowa once or twice. I didn’t really know what was going on.
“I kind of opened it up (recruiting) and once I did, I was already in Iowa and I met Coach Rhoads. I think he’s an awesome coach, and I liked the other players. I love Ames, and once I knew all that, I was gonna go to Iowa State.
“In the back of my head, I knew I could play against Iowa. I was getting all the crap from Iowa fans and with everything that was said ... I’ve been waiting for game day so once I get on that field I can prove them wrong and show them what they could have had.”
That day is almost at hand.
To be continued ...
©2013 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa)
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