AMES | Jeremiah George is typically the first Iowa State player to show for the athlete interview portion of the Cyclone football program's weekly press conferences on Monday.
George also is usually the first, or one of the first, to reach the interview room following a game, win or lose. He answers each and every question articulately and thanks reporters at the end of the interview.
That is a sign of a stand-up, respected individual.
It's also probably safe to say that George, the senior middle linebacker from Clearwater, Fla., is one of the first Cyclones to the practice field and one of the first players into the weight room on scheduled lifting days.
It's what ISU head coach Paul Rhoads loves about George, one of the Cyclone captains this season.
"Jeremiah has been the same guy leading with what he has been saying, how he has been practicing, and you are seeing that level of play on the field," Rhoads said.
It's also George's day-to-day approach that Rhoads says has kept the team together despite its 1-7 record with no chance of a bowl game.
Rhoads made a point of thanking George and fellow senior captains Ernst Brun, James White and Jeff Woody on the way to the airport after last Saturday's loss at Kansas State ended the Cyclones' chances of earning a bowl bid.
"You always concern yourself in years like this with cancer seeping into your lockerroom, meeting rooms and it starts to tear away at your football team," Rhoads said. "I haven't seen one bit of it.
After two non-descript seasons, George emerged as solid contributor a year ago, making 87 tackles, four for loss, with three pass break-ups in nine starts. His presence in the middle was overshadowed by current NFL linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein.
With those two players gone, George has elevated his level of play again in 2013. He ranks third in the nation in tackles (11.6 per game) and third in solo tackles (71). In Big 12 play, George ranks first in tackles for loss (8.5) and leads the Big 12 with 13.2 tackles per game.
That production comes from a guy whom many would consider undersized for a middle linebacker at 5-foot-11, 219 pounds.
"If there is a linebacker playing at a higher level in the Big 12 this season, I'd like to see a steady dose of their film because I don't think there is," Rhoads said.
With a bowl game out of the picture after taking part in three as a Cyclone, George's enthusiasm hasn't waned. He tries to make sure his teammates keep positive, as well.
"I kept high spirits while we were working out (Sunday) because at a time like this moping around isn't going to do anything to help anybody out," George said. "Getting frustrated is not going to help at all. So I'm going to continue to do the things that I have done throughout the season and more importantly now because we are down and out."
Asked if that is hard to do, especially since the Cyclones are riding a five-game losing streak, George said sure, but also said his days as a Cyclone aren't over yet.
"Coach Rhoads always talks about when you are frustrated all you are doing is spinning your wheels and you are not going anywhere," George said. "We have four weeks left and four big games that are out there to get. They are not going to come easy so we have to continue to work hard.
"I've got four guaranteed games to play the game I love and I'm not going out there to lose those football games, I'm going out to win."
George is especially looking forward to his final two home games at Jack Trice Stadium, including this Saturday when Iowa State hosts TCU in its 101st homecoming game.
He said there is no greater feeling then running out of that tunnel at the start of the game to the 55,000-plus ISU faithful. And now as a captain who comes out before the team runs out onto the field, nothing makes him prouder to be a Cyclone.
"It feels so incredible," George says of watching his team run out onto the field. "It is heartfelt as they are coming out. I'm thinking about all the adversity we went through that nobody knows about during the offseason ... the heartache we suffered through, the daily practices and whatnot.
"So I'm thinking about that and I get to compete with these guys and get to share incredible moments that I will cherish the rest of my life with these men that are coming out of this tunnel."