King looks to build off of freshman campaign
Desmond King scanned the sidelines at Kinnick Stadium during the Hawkeyes’ 2013 season-opener against Northern Illinois. Defensive back Jordan Lomax had just left the game with a hamstring injury, and somebody needed to step up.
On that sideline, King looked around at his teammates. One of them will go in, he thought. Surely it wouldn’t be him, just a true freshman during his first college football game.
“I thought it was their chance to actually go in,” King said on Monday at Iowa’s media day. “Me, [Sean] Draper, and Maurice [Fleming], we just looked at each other.
“And then coach [Phil] Parker looked at me and said, ‘Get in the game.’ I was just kind of stuck in the moment.”
A year later, King enters his sophomore season as Iowa’s most experienced cornerback. He’s focused on building on a stellar 2013 campaign, in which he became the first true freshman to start in Iowa’s secondary since 2002.
The highlight of his year came in during the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day. King, along with the rest of the unit, effectively shut down LSU’s top two receivers, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.
That’s no small feat, either; both Landry and Beckham Jr., were taken in the first two rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.
Iowa lost that game, 21-14, but King left an impressive impression on perhaps the most formidable receiving duo in the nation last season.
“It just made me feel better as a person and as an athlete,” King said about the praise he received from Beckham and Landry. “Just to know that there are others that care about improving in life and getting better in football.”
King said that friends back home sometimes tease him on his newfound success as a Hawkeye.
“They were happy for me,” he said. “And some would be like, ‘You’re so good; come check me now.’ ”
So where does King go from here? Ask those around him, and the answer is up.
“For him, as a true freshman, to walk in there and do what he did and perform the way he did, a very tough position, it’s really admirable of him,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Hopefully, he’ll continue to improve too. That is one good thing about young players: All players have a chance to improve.”
King worked primarily on physicality, speed, and footwork during the off-season. He said that with teams such as Pittsburgh and Maryland on Iowa’s schedule, speed would be extremely important for him.
But the native of Detroit, with nearly a full season of starting under his belt, is also working to become more of a leader on the team — which is good, considering Iowa’s defense (especially the secondary) has several holes that will likely be filled by younger, inexperienced players.
Other veteran players have noticed and have said that King’s leadership skills add to his excellent résumé.
“He’s obviously a really good player,” Iowa’s strong safety John Lowdermilk said. “He feels more comfortable, and he’s out there trying to help the younger guys because he knows how hard it is, just like everybody else, to come in and pick it up, because it is really complex coming out of high school.”
Follow @dipregame on Twitter for news, updates and analysis of the Iowa football team.
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