One year ago, Steele Jantz was trotting on to the field of RAM Stadium about to lead the City College of San Francisco football team at quarterback against another Northern California Conference opponent.
Flash forward and the 22 year old, who only started one game at quarterback while in high school, has led the Iowa State Cyclones to a 2-0 start, including an upset 44-41 victory over in-state rival Iowa in the third overtime last Saturday.
“You are going from one level of football to the next, and as the competition increases and the level of play increases, there is that unknown factor,” said Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads. “[Jantz] has the personality that he has shown us thus far that he’ll be unflappable when it comes to 55,000 screaming fans and playing under the lights.”
Prior to this season, Jantz’s only FBS football experience was playing the role of then Florida quarterback Tim Tebow on the University of Hawaii’s scout team as a true freshman. After redshirting at Hawaii, Jantz joined the junior college ranks and transferred to City College of San Francisco in search of more playing time.
During his 2010 season at the helm of the City College of San Francisco offense, Jantz threw for 3,075 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushed for 601 yards and 14 TDs to lead the Rams to an 11-1 record and a spot in the California State community college title game.
Jantz’s play caught the eye of Rhoads and Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman who offered him a spot on the Cyclone’s roster and a chance to compete for the job of starting QB.
After a battle in training camp with Jerome Tiller — who was eventually ruled academically ineligible and forced to sit out the 2011 season — Jantz won the starting position and was handed the ball for the Cyclones’ season opener against Northern Iowa.
“Steele emerged from a group of quarterbacks by displaying the three qualities we were looking for most consistently. That’s decision-making. That’s throwing accuracy and that’s getting things done with his feet,” Rhoads said.
In his first start as a FBS quarterback, Steele went 18-40 in the air for 187 yards and three interceptions and rushed for 80 yards and two TDs. Despite struggling throughout most of the game, Steele led the Cyclones to two scoring drives in the final five minutes and gave Iowa State a 20-19 win over Northern Iowa.
“I tried not to pay attention to the nerves, but there were some nerves,” Jantz said about his first game at the head of the Cyclones’ offense. “Luckily as the game went on, I was able to settle down a little bit.”
Despite a rocky, although victorious, start to his FBS career, Jantz brought his name to the front of the minds of the Cyclone faithful with a performance against Iowa that earned him Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors and caused Iowa State fans to rush the field.
“When I do things bad, when I make mistakes, I try to make sure that’s the last time that’s going to happen,” Jantz said following Saturday’s victory. “I’m the type of guy that really learns from mistakes so hopefully every game I’ll be getting better.”
Throwing for 279 yards, four TDs and no interceptions in addition to rushing for 42 yards, with a QB rating of 166.58, Jantz led Iowa State to the tying touchdown with 1:17 left in regulation and then to touchdowns in each of the three overtime periods.
“He’s just a natural quarterback,” said Cyclone junior wide receiver Josh Lenz. “He has a knack of making plays when he needs to and that’s what he’s doing.”
As he continues his transition from junior college to the FBS, Jantz will need to have more performances like his one against Iowa if the Cyclones are to return to a bowl game for the first time since 2009.
“Steele Jantz makes plays. He made plays as a junior college player that we recruited and he’s making plays as an Iowa State Cyclone now,” Rhoads said. “Some guys rise up when the spotlight’s the brightest and he certainly has in two football games.”