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Recruiting 2012: Fleming 'ready to go' at Iowa

BY MATT COZZI | FEBRUARY 02, 2012 7:20 AM

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Maurice Fleming wanted to pack up his equipment and leave. Pads, helmets, gloves, the whole shebang. He wanted to quit football.

He was 6x years old, not even a month into his first season of youth football with the Windy City Dolphins in Chicago. Now 18, Fleming remembers his feeling of frustration — but he also remembers what his mother told him.

"I wanted to quit my first year because they wanted me to play offensive line," Fleming said. "My mom told me, 'You know what, you're going to finish what you started.' I did finish, and I ended up switching positions by the end of that season."

The Curie High product stuck with football, and it paid off. On Wednesday morning — with his family surrounding him — Fleming signed a national letter of intent to become a Hawkeye.

Rochelle Harper, Fleming's mother, said she believed her son would eventually earn a Division-I football scholarship if he stuck to the same values he learned at a young age.

He did.

"Maurice has been involved in sports all of his life," said Harper, who raised Fleming virtually on her own. "The athleticism was always there."

Although Fleming was mainly a quarterback and wide receiver at the prep level, Iowa recruited the 6-1, 185-pounder as a defensive back. He held offers from a number of schools, including Indiana and Wisconsin.

Perhaps his greatest attribute, though — at least in terms of the future of the Iowa program — is his ability to sway other Chicago-area players to commit to the school; four-star defensive linemen Faith Ekakitie (Lake Forest, Ill.) and Jaleel Johnson (Lombard, Ill.) spoke with Fleming prior to their commitments.

"He's got a really special personality to him," head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "He had been pretty active on the recruiting front; he's pretty persuasive. There's no question he helped us with some of the other guys."

Fleming's athleticism may translate to the college level quickly in terms of playing time, especially because the Iowa coaching staff hasn't been shy about putting true freshmen on special teams in recent years. The 18-year-old tore his ACL during the second game of his senior season, but he said he's back to doing sprints and cuts.

"There was a lot of pain of course, but it just took hard work to recover," Fleming said. "Now, I'm at about 85 percent … I'm thankful for the people at Iowa being loyal."

While he was out, it was apparent that Fleming's presence left a gaping hole at Curie.

Tyson LeBlanc, Fleming's head coach at Curie, has coached hundreds of players throughout his tenure. Fleming, he said, has been the most assertive. LeBlanc would know, as his most recent D-I recruit played on the varsity all four years.

"Good leaders are hard to come by. Reese was the guy on our team his teammates looked up to," LeBlanc said. "He was the one guy on our team that would call out other guys if they weren't getting the job done and put pressure on them to excel.

"When he went down, we missed that. We had some players who tried to step in, but they had some pretty big shoes to fill."

Fleming recorded 15 tackles and an interception in his very-shortened senior year. His last full season, as a junior, he passed for more than 2,000 yards and rushed for more than 1,000 more. He also had 47 tackles and 3 interceptions.

And while most of his statistics came from the offensive side of ball, Fleming insists he's ready to get to Iowa City and start competing as a defensive back. He just wants to "finish what he started."

"I'm just ready to play football," Fleming said. "If I stay humbled and focused, good things will happen. As soon as I get to Iowa, I'm going to be ready to go."

Follow DI football reporter Matt Cozzi on Twitter.


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