Brown: Desmond King wants crowning achievement as junior
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Desmond King has a wealth of experience at cornerback for Iowa's football team.
"That wasn't by design," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "He got thrown in there, and he did a great job."
It was a hot, humid, late-August day when the true freshman introduced himself to Hawkeye fans for the first time in the 2013 season opener against Northern Illinois.
Starting right cornerback Jordan Lomax injured a hamstring and couldn't continue. King was the next man in. The season ended with him covering LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. in the Outback Bowl.
"I feel as if the sky is the limit for him," Beckham, now with the New York Giants, said afterward.
Words like that left this impression: King had arrived. Athlon Sports named him a third-team freshman all-American. The Big Ten Network named him to the league's all-freshman team.
But early success can have a negative side. And to Ferentz, King didn't play with the same hunger as a sophomore that he did as a freshman.
"I'm not sure he was full-throttle last year, and I don't mean that in a derogatory sense," Ferentz said. "It's just that he was a younger player who maybe thought he had it figured out, and that happens. I only bring that up because he's a different guy now."
King will tell you, in retrospect, that he didn't have it figured out. He hungers to get better, taking on leadership responsibilities as well.
"My freshman year, I was not really familiar with the defense," King said. "Sophomore year, I was just getting familiar with it. And now I can communicate across the whole secondary, the whole defense, and contribute to our success."
King's focus on the job at hand hasn't been lost on Ferentz, who said the junior has "been a different guy. He trained extremely hard this summer, and he is practicing and playing very well right now. If we're going to have a good football team, the guys who have played for us have to play well. And he is certainly doing his part in setting some tempo on the back end for us."
King has piled up 25 straight starts, and he said that number will grow beyond this season. All that talk about King leaving after his junior season to make himself eligible for the NFL Draft? Forget about it.
"I'm not leaving early at all," King said. "Getting a degree is something that is very important for me. Football is No. 1. But so is my education."
While King is determined to be the best player he can, he's also leading by example in a secondary that looks to be a team strength.
"He definitely has a lot of experience," said the Hawkeyes' other starting cornerback, Greg Mabin. "There are still a few things he'll coach me up on, as well as some of the young corners, because we're trying to get them up to speed, too."
King plays an important position in the secondary, often covering his man one-on-one with no support.
"I know that I'll be by myself nine out of 10 times," King said. "I know I have to make the play. I'm also communicating across the secondary, making sure everyone gets the call. I'm very comfortable back there."
And comfortable beats the heck out of complacent.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.