Iowa State football finds EV a fertile field

The pipeline between Arizona and Iowa State University continues to be built year after year in the form of national football recruits.

Four years ago, it was Perry quarterback Brock Purdy who chose the Cyclones over the likes of Alabama and Arizona State. He was joined by Deer Valley offensive tackle Joey Ramos and later by his former teammate, Perry wide receiver D’Shayne James and Desert Ridge long snapper Koby Hathcock.

The four were part of Iowa State’s best season in program history in 2020-21, which culminated with a second-place finish in the Big 12 Conference and Fiesta Bowl win in Glendale. The buzz in Ames surrounding the football team, especially with Purdy at quarterback, has opened the flood gates for other Arizona recruits to target Iowa State as a potential landing spot.

And that can be directly attributed to Chandler-native and Iowa State tight ends coach Taylor Mouser.

“Growing up in Arizona, I remember going to some of those Fiesta Bowl games. That was the premier game to me,” Mouser said. “To be able to come back to Arizona and win the Fiesta Bowl in front of my friends and family and to bring a BCS trophy to Iowa State, it’s amazing.”

Mouser grew up in the East Valley and played football for Basha High School. He later went on to play for Adams State, a Division II school in Colorado.

He dreamed of an opportunity to become a coach at the college ranks and was able to become a graduate assistant wide receiver coach at Toledo under then-coach Matt Campbell. Mouser followed Campbell to Iowa State in 2015 where he became the offensive quality control coach and just recently, the tight ends coach. From early on at Iowa State, Campbell and the rest of the staff relied on him for recruiting insight, especially as it related to Arizona.

“I think I’m certainly a point of reference for some guys,” Mouser said. “Now going into our sixth year, I’ve been able to get Campbell out there a few times with Brock, D’Shayne, Koby, Joey, he’s got a good feeling now for what football is like there in Arizona.

“Arizona isn’t in the elementary phase of recruiting anymore. I no longer have to convince these guys to watch film on players from there.”

When the Cyclones searched for a quarterback to be part of their 2018 signing class, Mouser put Purdy on their radar. An undersized and under recruited quarterback at the time, Mouser, Campbell and other coaches visited Purdy at his East Valley home ahead of the February signing period. The coaches didn’t make it past Purdy’s driveway after the meeting before Alabama called with an offer.

Nonetheless, Purdy signed with Iowa State, kickstarting what has since led to five others playing their college careers in Ames with two more on the way as part of the 2021 class.

Among the 2021 class is Mountain Pointe tight end Kevin Sawitzke. He had direct contact with Mouser, who was elevated to Iowa State’s tight ends coach. Sawitzke was forced to meet his future coach virtually due to the pandemic, but he felt a connection right away.

“The first phone call we had we talked about Arizona and the way life is compared to Iowa,” Sawitzke said. “It felt good talking to someone who knows where I’m from and how things are in Arizona. There was an instant connection.

“Everyone wants to play for someone they feel like they can connect with and I think that was a big factor into my decision to play for him.”

It’s that same connection that led to Chandler running back Eli Sanders’ signing with Iowa State earlier this month. Originally committed to Boise State, Sanders chose the Cyclones over the Broncos, Iowa and San Diego State.

While not the direct point of contact, “Mouse” — as he has with the rest — helped put Sanders on the Cyclones’ radar.

Mouser attributes some of Iowa State’s success in Arizona with his ability to connect on a personal level. Being from the area, it’s not uncommon for him to ask the player’s favorite menu item at local taco shop Los Favoritos. He asks about Chandler Fashion Center and other shopping establishments he frequently visited himself when he was their age.

He builds a connection with the players that goes well beyond the X’s and O’s of the game. Though his ability to do that isn’t surprising to most. Even in high school he never shied away from conversation.

“He was a kid you enjoyed talking to and could carry out a conversation with him as a coach,” said Collin Bottrill, who coached Mouser at Basha and is now on Chandler’s varsity football staff. “He’s been instrumental in putting Iowa State off the map and that’s what I told him when he was promoted to tight ends coach. He was a big part of getting Eli Sanders to commit to Iowa State.

“Now with his connections, he’s opening up that pipeline from Arizona to Iowa State.”

Before the pandemic, home visits were an essential aspect of recruiting. It allows coaches to get a feel for who a player is off the field, while also persuading parents their respective program is a good fit for their son.

Just as he did with Purdy, Mouser aimed to make a good impression with Koby Hathcock in 2019. Though, familiarity with his father, Jeremy, helped.

“Taylor is the one who got the ball rolling in Arizona,” Jeremy Hathcock said. “Mouse played with one of my former players in college, so when we went to Iowa on Koby’s official visit we hung out with him.

“He’s one of the most chill guys I’ve ever met, and he just knows how to connect with kids.”

Mouser’s impact in Arizona and especially the East Valley is far from over.

Just in the last two weeks he and the Iowa State staff have extended scholarship offers to other players, including Desert Ridge defensive end Lance Holtzclaw and a pair of from his Alma mater, Basha quarterback Demond Williams III and linebacker Wyatt Milkovich.

The pipeline, while in good standing, is still far from finished. Mouser aims to continue building Iowa State’s roster with local recruits sprinkled in. And with Iowa State projected to only improve next season with six Arizona natives on the roster, there’s no telling how big the pipeline could grow.

“I think coach Mouser has done a great job of finding guys in Arizona and with that connection, I feel like it is putting Iowa State on the map,” Sawitzke said. “I feel like the Iowa State-Arizona pipeline can be huge.

“I can’t wait to compete and grow as a player and as an athlete. I can’t wait to get out there and start working.”

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