Rhoads lauds strong character

Never underestimate the value of positive character.

That was the message delivered by keynote speaker and Iowa State University head football coach Paul Rhoads during the 14th annual Youth Character Awards recognition program Sunday at First Presbyterian Church’s Christian Life Center.

Rhoads addressed the award recipients in fifth through 12th grades, along with their parents, grandparents, teachers and mentors, on the importance of building good habits.

“Congratulations to everybody here,” said Rhoads to the nearly 350 people in attendance. “You played a role and made an investment whether it was time, love or money.

“My one goal for the evening is that I might be able to impact your life.”

Through his first five years at the helm, Rhoads has guided the Cyclones to 27 wins and three bowl appearances. The 47-year old discussed how character directly relates to the ISU football program both on and off the gridiron.

“Smart decisions off the field make less news than decisions that aren’t so smart,” Rhoads said. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

“Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Rhoads also reflected on his own career achievements. In Dec. of 2008, then-ISU head coach Gene Chizik left to take the same position at Auburn University. Rhoads was offered the job in Ames, which was an opportunity to return to his home state.

Prior to being hired by the Cyclones, the Nevada native and Ankeny graduate served as an assistant at Utah State, Ohio State, Pacific, Iowa State, Pittsburgh and Auburn. During his playing days, Rhoads was a defensive back at Missouri Western from 1985-88.

“Before I ever became a head coach, I set the expectation of becoming a Div. I head football coach, and here I stand,” said Rhoads. “You have to set the bar high if you’re going to exceed expectations. Seldom do we exceed expectations, and when we do, we are surprised.”

Rhoads encouraged the youth to live by the six pillars of character – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

“We refer to commitment at Iowa State as ‘All In,'” Rhoads said. “The only place that success ever comes before work is in the dictionary. Don’t be afraid to put on a blue-collar shirt and go to work on a daily basis.”