AMES — He’s lived in the bed of a truck.
Also, a tent.
He’s faced down the death of his big-time college football dream from the end of the bench not once but twice.
That’s Iowa State’s re-christened starting quarterback, Steele Jantz — central Iowa’s man of mystery.
How will he respond in Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against BCS No. 12 Oklahoma after a record-tying performance in last week’s Baylor win?
He’s not saying.
And even Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads isn’t entirely sure which Steele Jantz he’ll get as his team (5-3, 2-3) seeks its first victory over the Sooners (5-2, 3-1) in 22 years.
“I think it’s mental,” Rhoads said. “He’s got to have the same composure that leads to confidence going into the game that he had for (Baylor). I think that’s not necessarily something that’s easily bottled, but there’s a formula there and he knows what it was and needs to get right back it.”
Part of the cool Californian’s new blueprint: No media.
Jantz — who tied school records for completions (36) and touchdown passes (five) in Saturday’s 35-21 triumph over the Bears — has repeatedly declined to be interviewed during regular business hours.
“Guarded’s not the right word, but he holds things in,” Rhoads said when asked about Jantz’s general demeanor. “Even with all his success (Saturday) you never saw any outpouring of emotion from him. He went to his teammates. He congratulated his teammates. He was congratulated by his teammates and he went to the sideline and got ready for his next opportunity.”
Cue the arrival of the Sooners, who are smarting from a 30-13 home loss to resurgent Notre Dame.
Oklahoma’s two setbacks came against unbeaten top three-ranked teams.
Prolific passer Landry Jones still stands behind center.
Kenny Stills stars at wide receiver.
Trey Millard’s a top-notch fullback.
And the defense remains littered with talent, including defensive back Tony Jefferson, a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist.
“It’s OU,” said ISU tailback James White, who is nearly 100 percent healthy after undergoing knee surgery three weeks ago. “I expect OU to be OU. I expect them to come out and play their best game, give us their best shot.”
Jantz aims to fire back — in an even-measured, not fiery manner.
“I tell him all the time, ‘Trust your arm, trust the O-line, trust the plays, everything’s going to be fine,’” said tight end Ernst Brun, who had six catches for 76 yards against Baylor. “He stepped into the pocket, he was making plays with his feet, throwing strikes. You can just tell by the way he was playing that he’s capable of playing that way every Saturday.”
Nonetheless, Jantz travels light and practices leave-no-trace techniques.
He told the Gazette before the season opener he doesn’t care about clothes, doesn’t own a TV or video game console and could pack up all his belongings in 10 minutes “and it would look like nobody was ever there.”
“If I had to take a few things, I would take my phone, books, my Bible,” he said. “There’s really nothing I cling to.”
A cryptic quarterback on a Quixotic journey.
“It’s another great challenge against a traditional powerhouse in college football,” Rhoads said. “And it’s one of the reasons why you play in this league.”
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