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The son of Bulgarian immigrants, David Davidkov brings rare work ethic to Iowa Hawkeyes

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

Iowa's newest 2021 football recruit is already all of 6-foot-6 and 295 pounds. He's a consensus four-star prospect considered a top-60 national talent by 247Sports who picked Iowa over Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin, among others.

Simply put, it's a big deal that David Davidkov is a Hawkeye.

Here's the thing, though: He almost pursued a different sport.

Rugby.

After playing football, basketball and hockey growing up, Davidkov decided to give rugby a try in eighth grade. Turns out he was good. Like, really good.

"I barely even knew the rules," he told the Register.

Davidkov was so naturally gifted that, after his freshman year at New Trier High in the Chicago area, he was invited to play on the Midwest roster for USA Rugby's 18-and-under national team, which could have set him up for a career with Team USA.

But there was a problem. That team competed during the summer, when Davidkov was set to practice with New Trier's varsity football squad. That would set his development back and, at that point, it was already pretty clear he had collegiate potential in football.

David Davidkov and his family pose during an Iowa junior day visit.

So, Davidkov picked the pigskin.

Now, almost two years later, that's looking like a great decision — and one that Iowa coaches are happy he made.

"It’s one thing to be done with your recruitment, and then one thing to know in your heart that you’re excited to go to the school you’re committed to, that you’re really happy about it," Davidkov said. "(Iowa) is my second home."

Davidkov's recruitment blossomed right after his sophomore year. Western Michigan and Purdue jumped in first, offering in November and December of 2018. Then, in January 2019, after Davidkov's film had time to circulate a bit, he enjoyed what his head coach, Brian Doll, calls his "Big Ten Weekend."

Wisconsin offered Jan. 11. Iowa and Minnesota offered Jan. 12. Three days later, Indiana and Illinois joined the race. Michigan quickly followed suit.

By the start of his junior year, Davidkov had tacked on offers from Nebraska, Oregon, Penn State, Iowa State, Duke, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Boston College, LSU, Ohio State, Kansas and Syracuse.

He took plenty of visits, including to Notre Dame, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern. But he found himself consistently ranking schools behind Iowa. The Hawkeyes were always No. 1, even as others fluctuated in his personal rankings.

So, last weekend, Davidkov decided he didn't need to take any additional visits to pick from his final four schools of Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin.

"I had this as a top school for so long and I knew I wanted to go there," Davidkov said.  "For so long I would think, 'Oh, let me wait until my officials.' But then the coronavirus hit, you don’t know if there’s going to be officials. There might be, but either way, I’m not sure. And one day I was just like, 'You know what? Today’s the day. There’s no point in waiting anymore.'"

Allen Trieu, 247Sports' Midwest recruiting analyst, said Davidkov fits the classic profile of an Iowa offensive lineman.

"It’s a great get. They’ve done more with less in the past, in terms of recruiting rankings on the offensive line," Trieu said. "So I think you get excited about the combination of a guy with his pedigree coming in along with their development at that position. Our whole staff really liked his film."

Trieu said that, beyond his athletic abilities, he really appreciated the way Davidkov approaches the game. 

Doll said the same thing — that the way Davidkov goes about practicing, playing and striving to improve every single day is rare.

"There’s just a focus there that I don't have with a lot of my kids," Doll said. "He has his goals of wanting to play at the next level and beyond. And then the work ethic has just come along as he doesn't take anything for granted."

Davidkov is quick to credit his upbringing for that work ethic. His parents, Emil and Elena, emigrated from Bulgaria to the U.S. in the 1990s. His father left behind a hockey career in his home country to take a chance on a better life in America.

Emil and Elena are truck drivers, often working overnight shifts to provide for the family. 

"It was a risk to take," Davidkov said of his parents' decision to move to America. "It was not comfortable for them, but they knew what would be best for their future kids. So they took the opportunity they had, came here and started with no money in their pockets. They came here broke and grinded their way up and never stopped working."

Doll said Davidkov's humble, hard-working attitude has been infectious to the coaches recruiting him, and that's led to strong relationships with different staffs throughout college football.

In fact, before announcing a decision, Davidkov called many schools he didn't pick to let them know. And that includes schools that weren't even in his final four.

“He developed such a good relationship with so many coaches," Doll said. "(Northwestern head coach) Pat Fitzgerald reached out to me today, he’s like, 'Great fit for him. What a great kid.' That’s the feel that all these coaches have for him. They’re kind of rooting for him.

"I know they’re going to be competitors now, but he’s made a mark on a lot of guys by developing relationships and just being a good person."

Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

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