Todd Bandhauer saw Jay Norvell being named CSU’s new head football coach and immediately texted Wade Troxell – the one guy he knew would understand.
“Ok so now I am pumped! Coach Norvell was my QB Coach!”
Both mechanical engineering professors played football in college: Troxell for CSU in the 1970s and Bandhauer for Iowa State University in the late ’90s.
It’s a rare bond since most athletes choose academic disciplines other than engineering: Of the more than 350 student athletes at CSU, only 21 are engineering majors. And there’s only a handful of faculty and staff in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering who were athletes in college.
Bandhauer, who still holds some football records at Iowa State, knows first-hand how isolating that can be. This spring, he created a new student club for engineering student-athletes so they can get to know each other and share experiences.
“Engineering is a tough major, and it takes a lot of work,” said Bandhauer, whose research fittingly focuses on converting wasted thermal energy into something useful like electricity. “Personally, I liked it because it was two different worlds. I could exercise my brain differently.”
Challenges for engineering athletes
One of the students who joined the club is Katelyn Bartley, a third-year mechanical engineering student with a concentration in aerospace engineering. She’s also a member of the Women’s Swim Team, which often means she’s traveling to meets and balancing a chaotic schedule that she must help coaches and faculty understand.
“My hopes are that through this group we are forming I can encourage the underclassmen as to what to look forward to once you start the fun classes later in your undergraduate career,” she said. “I have also been able to give them advice for classes as far as what professors to take or how to structure/plan big projects for other classes. Some of the time I have spent with the group I have been able to use to network and gain access to job opportunities that I didn’t think possible.”
Time management is the biggest issue, said Lars Mitchel, a junior studying mechanical engineering who is also on the cross country/track team.
“Having this other commitment that requires so much time and attention really forces you to plan ahead and use that time efficiently,” Mitchel said. “My hope for this group is just to create a sense of community. I feel we are in a unique sort of niche being both engineers and athletes, so it definitely helps to meet other people in the same boat who can relate to what you are going through so well and maybe get some advice along the way!”
A Norvell recruit
Norvell recruited Bandhauer out of Crystal River, Florida, and he delivered. He held the Iowa State record for touchdown passes in a single game (5) until another player tied it in 2012. He held onto the record of 40 career touchdowns until 2010, and single-season touchdowns until 2019. He was quarterback at one of the most discussed games in Iowa State history – Sept. 12, 1998 – when they beat the University of Iowa for the first time since 1982.
“Todd was really bright, big, tall, strong arm quarterback, and a great leader in high school. And those are the qualities we were looking for in a quarterback,” Coach Norvell said. “We were looking for a guy that could throw the ball, an intelligent guy, a guy who had strong leadership skills.”
As a college student, Bandhauer led by example, Norvell said.
“Just had a lot of respect from his teammates because he studied so hard,” Norvell said. “He knew what we were trying to do. And he had great personal accountability. He was one of our strongest leaders we had on the team, and it was really instrumental to our whole program.”
So when Troxell asked Bandhauer about the new coach, he told him Norvell is “an absolutely great get for CSU.”
Bandhauer spoke to Norvell after his press conference on Dec. 7. They stayed in touch over the years, but hadn’t seen each other for more than a decade.
“It was really emotional because it was life coming full circle,” Bandhauer said. “He’s a fantastic person and great human being, and we’re lucky to have him as our coach.”
Dave Crum, now working for development in CSU Athletics, is also someone Bandhauer knew from his days as ticket manager at Iowa State. They were reminiscing with Todd’s wife, Karen, about ISU while they were waiting to talk with Norvell.
“I think players love to play for Coach Norvell,” he said. “He really cared about us. He’s a really positive person with a lot of energy. He’s known for creating this sense of excitement that, ‘hey we’re going to do something awesome, and we want you to be part of it.’”
Supporting engineering student-athletes
Like Bartley, though, Bandhauer vividly remembers the precarious balance of classes and football. His training included running three times a week at 6 in the morning, which caused him to routinely sleep through an 8 a.m. physics class.
His senior year, he went to the NFL scouting combine with his heat transfer textbook in tow because he had an exam. He didn’t do well on either the exam or the combine, but wound up with an “A-” in the class and now teaches the subject at CSU.
“What I love about engineering is that we’re problem solvers. Just because I’ve been through it myself, the pressures and demands with being a Division 1 athlete are significant,” he said, adding that he hopes he can help the student athletes “develop persistence in the face of exhaustion.”
He’s also sensitive to helping students plan for what’s next, particularly life after a very regimented schedule that included performing for an audience of 61,000 people in Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.
“When football was done, it was a pretty abrupt change, and it was quite difficult to deal with – going from the daily grind and being around teammates and talking to reporters all the time,” he said. “It’s just different. I can provide perspective on having a varied career in life. I had a few key mentors. I’d rather these students not make some of the mistakes I have.”
He’s also helping to celebrate athletes who accomplish great things. In 2017, when Mostafa Hassan (mechanical engineering, ’18) showed up to class the morning after winning the NCAA championship in indoor shot put, Bandhauer led the class in a congratulatory round of applause..
As for his own athletic legacy and those passing records?
Bandhauer just laughs. “I think the only one I have left is number of interceptions.”