IOWA CITY, Ia. — When Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker went hunting for a defensive back late in the recruiting process three years ago, trusted resources told him about a guy from Detroit who was already committed to Ball State.
Their comments about one of the best players in Michigan intrigued Parker, so he paid a visit to Desmond King in January 2013. Right away, Parker knew he was onto something.
“He had that look,” Parker said.
King’s highlight tape and grades were good at East English Village Prep. Why Parker thought he would be a good fit at Iowa was revealed soon thereafter.
“There was no question about his character,” Parker said. “(What was) really impressive was just the way he handled himself in school with the other teachers and the way they talked about him.”
So maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that King is returning to Iowa for his senior football season. King confirmed his return in an Instagram post on Tuesday afternoon. There are more important things than zeroes behind a dollar sign in this young man’s life.
"Feels good to finish my education and to be with my brothers for my senior year. There will be those that say my decision is wrong but it's what's best for me," King wrote on his Instagram account.
In an interview with The Daily Iowan, which broke the story, King's mother, Yvette Powell, said her son had “unfinished business” at Iowa, which suffered a humbling 45-16 Rose Bowl defeat. Perhaps her most telling quote was about junior classmate C.J. Beathard, the second-team all-Big Ten Conference Hawkeye quarterback.
“He didn’t want to leave C.J. like that,” she told the DI. “We talked to C.J., and he was happy.”
Iowa players are not allowed to use Twitter, but many of them do operate Instagram accounts. King’s Instagram says the right things. For example, he posted a photo of a fresh Kinnick Stadium banner trumpeting his status as a consensus all-American and winner of the Jim Thorpe Award (given to the nation’s top defensive back) and posted: “It's more than just a game, how will you want them to remember you?”
In a Monday-posted projected first round by NFLDraftScout.com, King was listed as the No. 24 overall pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last year’s No. 24 overall pick, D.J. Humphries of the Arizona Cardinals, signed a rookie contract totaling $8.9 million over four years.
To pass that possibility up, King’s actions — coming back to Iowa and being the first member of his family to get a college degree — tell more about his character than words.
After playing another year in college, the millions will still be there for King. Even if he got a late first-round projection, there would be no guarantees how he’d fare at the NFL Scouting Combine. Age is on King’s side — the true junior just turned 21 years old in December. Only four NFL rookies this past season played at a younger age than King would have in 2016.
King has respect for Kirk Ferentz, affectionately referring to the 17th-year Iowa coach as #CaptainKirk on Instagram. Leading up to the Rose Bowl, Ferentz was supportive of whatever King would decide, while pointing out that offensive lineman Brandon Scherff’s decision to stay at Iowa for his senior year increased his value to a top-five draft pick and a contract worth more than $21 million in guaranteed money.
Ferentz added of King, “The nice thing is when you're a good player, you're going to win either way. When he's 25, he's going to be in the NFL playing well.”
King won’t win a community-service contest with Jordan Canzeri and, yes, he was late to a team meeting this year, but he’s an integral part in the unifying culture change that began in the Iowa Football Performance Center last January. It's also telling that he checked off with Beathard on the decision. King and Beathard are now the unquestioned faces and leaders of 2016 Hawkeye football.
On top of knowing he’ll still just be 22 as a 2017 NFL rookie and that he took another run at a Big Ten championship with his friends, King’s decision makes sense.
“You may never (again) be in this position in your life where you're going to win no matter what you do,” Ferentz said. “And it's nice sometimes to be in a position where you can do what you want, not what you feel like you have to do.”