MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Quarterback Kyle Kempt walked onto the Iowa State football team before the 2016 season after stops at Oregon State and Hutchison Community College. No one had any expectations for him.
He hadn’t even thrown a collegiate pass in a game before he got to Iowa State.
As a walk on, Kempt, a computer science major, needed a way to make some money last summer. The computer science program got an email from the Iowa State football strength and conditioning staff to build a website that tracked if guys were being over-worked or under-worked.
“I was a student worker for the [football] program building a website for the team that we used,” Kempt said. “It helps out with how we’re tracking our players.”
His website must’ve worked. Iowa State had its best season since 2000 with an 8-5 overall record and a 5-4 conference record. Kempt broke Iowa State’s single-season passing completion percentage record, completing 66.3 percent of his passes.
He took over the quarterback position after Jacob Park left the Cyclones and guided Iowa State to wins over No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 TCU. On Saturday, he guided Iowa State to a 21-20 win over No. 20 Memphis in the Liberty Bowl.
Kempt completed 24 of his 38 pass attempts for 314 yards and two touchdowns in the game – 10 of the completions went to receiver Allen Lazard.
“That’s a day in the office for him,” Kempt said. “We just took advantage of some looks they were giving us. I should have had him [more], I missed him a few times. That’s a guy that played to the level that he’s supposed to.”
Lazard also caught one of Kempt’s two touchdowns, but not before some heart-stopping moments.
On 2nd and 7 from Memphis’ nine-yard line, Kempt fired a pass into the end zone. It was picked off by Memphis defensive back Curtis Akins. But a roughing-the-passer penalty took it all back and gave Iowa State a first down.
Two plays later, Kempt fired another pass into the end zone. This time it was tipped by Memphis defensive back Josh Perry and Iowa State receiver Marchie Murdock before Lazard finally came down with it in the very back of the end zone.
“I wish I would’ve made that a little easier for our Cyclone fans and the team,” Kempt said. “That’s my fault. That’s probably the epitome of the season. Bad things happen and we were able to fight through it.”
And now the season is over. Iowa State’s seniors will all go their separate ways, whether it’s the NFL or a regular job.
Except Kempt. Maybe.
The redshirt senior applied for a sixth year of eligibility on the basis that he was run out at Oregon State, being told that he was never going to play there. Iowa State and Kempt filed for the hardship waiver before the bowl game. What’s his plan while he waits to hear back?
“I’m not doing a damn thing. I’m taking time off,” Kempt said. “Honestly though, some reflection too on this season. It’s hard for me right now thinking that this is the last time that I’ll be with this team.”
Even if Kempt gets his sixth year, guys like Lazard and Joel Lanning won’t be back next season. The normally stoic Kempt actually showed some raw emotion.
“It’s more-so the group of guys than it is playing football,” Kempt said. “I’m around these guys every day and it just sucks it’s not going to be the same – ever. These are memories that are never going to leave us and this is a team that was always united through the season.”
Kempt went from being a scout-team player that designed a website for the team, to an integral part of Iowa State’s 2017 team, and maybe, even the 2018 one.
Kempt’s still a walk-on, so we’ll have to see what summer plans he has if he gets his extra year.