Joel Lanning’s move from quarterback to linebacker remains one of the most fascinating storylines ahead of the 2017 Big 12 football season.
But in typical Joel Lanning fashion, he isn’t trying to make a big deal about it.
“I’m the type of person that’s going to do anything for the team,” Lanning said. “If you ask me to play a different position, I’ll do it. I’m trying to set that example.”
Lanning was a former all-state wrestler in Iowa and hasn’t played linebacker since 8th grade. But when you listening to Lanning talk, he makes it sound like moving from quarterback to linebacker is common practice for college football players.
“I couldn’t have done it without my coaches and teammates, they have both helped make the transition so easy for me. They were helping me watch extra film after practice, my teammates would come in and help me.”
The whole idea of Lanning playing linebacker reportedly came up to head coach Matt Campbell as early as late last season. With the emergence of Jacob Park at QB, Lanning became more of a short-yardage runner for the Cyclones last season and Campbell took notice of his ability to take the contact. Since then, Lanning has seen added 5 pounds from his playing weight at quarterback, so he’s now 230 pounds.
Outside of that, Lanning says the hardest part has been learning how to tackle. “Keep your head up,” Lanning admitted. “The first practice I was just trying to crush people. I was just ducking my head and I know I missed a few tackles because of that. We practice it all the time. Just seeing what you’re hitting and wrapping up. You don’t want to just hit ’em with your shoulder.”
TCU linebacker Ty Summers made a similar move from quarterback to linebacker, but he did it between high school and college. “To be able to make that transition in college is a credit to Lanning’s character, being willing to make that transition for the team… also, a credit to his knowledge of the game, to where he is mentally able to do it and adjust completely from an offensive mindset to a defensive mindset.”
But Summers believes that there is plenty about playing quarterback that can translate to linebacker, saying, “the leadership that you take from quarterback to linebacker, having to make sure that everyone is in the right spot during the play. You do the same thing on defense at linebacker. You’re basically the quarterback of the defense.”
There’s no doubt Lanning is a confident leader as he prepares for the toughest athletic hurdle of his young career. Iowa State finds itself in a good place on the defensive line thanks to JUCO players such as Matt Leo, Ray Lima and Kamilo Tongamoa. The secondary is solid as well thanks to Kamari Cotton-Moya and cornerbacks Brian Peavy and D’Andre Payne.
But linebacker is a major concern. Willie Harvey is back on the weakside, but after that there are several question marks. But Lanning doesn’t considering himself one of them. In fact, he is hoping to prove he has a chance at the NFL. “I’m going to give it everything I can to give myself a chance at the next level,” Lanning admitted. “I’ve talked to some of my former teammates in the NFL who are linebackers, so hopefully I can just give myself a chance, and that’s all I’m asking for is a chance.”
Well Lanning will get more than simply a chance with the Cyclones this season. If it pays off, Campbell, Joel Lanning and the Cyclones will all come out as big winners.
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