Iowa senior safety has fought through tough times Rick Brown/HawkCentral.com
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Jordan Lomax knows a thing or two about comebacks.
His Iowa football career was at a crossroads in 2013, when he injured a hamstring in the opener against Northern Illinois and lost his starting job. True freshman Desmond King came in to replace him, and became Lou Gehrig to Lomax's Wally Pipp.
King has started the last 25 games. Lomax, who had already missed the 2012 season with a shoulder injury, thought about taking the easy route, pulling up stakes and returning to his family and his Maryland roots.
"Anyone who loves to compete wants to play," Lomax said. "No one wants to sit on the sidelines. It took a lot to get through that."
But Lomax dug deep, embraced a new position and has become an important piece of an Iowa football team looking to make a comeback of its own after an underachieving 2014 season.
"Ultimately, you have to go back out there and compete and fight for a job," Lomax said. "I was able to do that at free safety."
Lomax started every game at free safety last season. It feels like home now.
"One thing about Jordan is he's a very smart kid," defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. "When he played corner he was a very physical kid. He understands the defense, and makes our calls. He's a competitor. A good athlete. And he likes to hit you."
Lomax is a bright light in the world of college athletics, a place where the dark side often rubs dirt on the term student-athlete. Lomax has a 3.48 grade-point average and will graduate this spring with a degree in economics. He's also become a leader of his football team as he closes the book on his college career. Strength coach Chris Doyle has noticed those leadership skills in the weight room.
"Jordan senses, as he gets older, that he had an ownership and an obligation to be a team leader," Doyle said. "And he embraces that."
Lomax enters his final season with self-described sense of urgency that matches his team. The Hawkeyes' disappointing 2014 season is well-chronicled. Even a 12th bowl appearance under coach Kirk Ferentz couldn't put a smiley face on things, especially after the subpar effort against Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
But there was an interesting vibe around the practice field during media day. It didn't feel like spin control as much as retooled dedication to the task at hand. Reese Morgan is in his 16th season on Ferentz's staff. He is rock of reason, a man I respect and one whose opinions I put a lot of stock in. Morgan doesn't talk just to hear himself. On Saturday, he spoke to that positive vibe.
"It's fun being in the meeting rooms, in the staff rooms, it's fun to be around the guys," Morgan said. "The culture is really positive."
Doyle calls the 2015 Hawkeyes "a hungry group. A humble group. I'm just excited to get into 2015."
This is a united front, running back Jordan Canzeri will tell you.
"There's all different minds, but we're all on the same page," Canzeri said. "We're all focused and we're all just ready."
Quarterback C.J. Beathard said there was leadership on the team last season, but more guys are invested in 2015.
"The leadership is a lot more present this year than it was last year," Beathard said.
But words don't win football games. Actions do.
"It's time to get going," Lomax said. "Not talk about it, but do it. Go out and act upon it."
Spoken like a true leader.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown