Ihmir Smith-Marsette ends dynamic Iowa football career, declares for NFL Draft

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Give him this: Ihmir Smith-Marsette knows how to make an entrance. And, now, an exit.

One of the most dynamic Iowa players of the Kirk Ferentz era officially announced the end of his Hawkeye football career Thursday by declaring for the NFL Draft. 

Smith-Marsette became intertwined immediately with the introduction of Brian Ferentz as offensive coordinator in 2017. In just his second game as a true freshman, Smith-Marsette caught two touchdown passes — including the walk-off game-winner — in a 44-41 overtime win at Iowa State.

And his career continued to be marked with big plays in big moments for four seasons.

Originally from Newark, New Jersey, Smith-Marsette committed to both Rutgers and Minnesota before ultimately signing with the Hawkeyes. And the rest was history. The 6-foot-1, 179-pound wide receiver and kick returner was one of the speediest Hawkeyes we've ever seen.

“I would like to thank coach Kirk Ferentz, coach Brian Ferentz, (receivers) coach (Kelton) Copeland and the rest of the … staff," Smith-Marsette posted on social media Thursday, "for providing a kid from the inner city with an opportunity to showcase my talents and abilities at a Division I level and in front of the greatest fans in college football.

“I look forward to continuing to represent the Iowa Hawkeyes at the next level. Go Hawks. — ISM.”

Smith-Marsette set a career high with 140 receiving yards on seven grabs in his final game, a 28-7 home win against Wisconsin on Dec. 12 — Iowa’s sixth in a row. He executed a front flip into the end zone on his 53-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but landed awkwardly on his left ankle and limped to the locker room and did not return to action. That play proved to be the last of Smith-Marsette’s fine Hawkeye career.

"Do I regret the flip? No. Would I do it again? Yeah. I’m just happy we got the win," Smith-Marsette said after the game. "Everyone was having fun. My senior year, never going to play in Kinnick again … got to go out with a bang."

He did.

Iowa receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette flips into the end zone for a 53-yard touchdown against Wisconsin, his last play as a Hawkeye.

Smith-Marsette finished his time at Iowa 18th on the career receiving yards list, with 110 receptions for 1,615 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also rushed 34 times for 274 yards and four touchdowns and was one of the most prolific kickoff returners in Big Ten Conference history.

Smith-Marsette’s 28.8-yard average on 53 returns ranks second all-time. That included touchdowns in back-to-back games in 2019 — against Nebraska in the regular-season finale, then in an MVP performance in the Holiday Bowl.

He only played in seven of Iowa's games this season, missing one after an OWI arrest. But he still led the team with 345 receiving yards on 25 catches with four touchdowns.

Iowa is scheduled to play in the Dec. 30 TransPerfect Music City Bowl, although the program is on pause until at least Saturday after a COVID-19 outbreak. If the game is played, Iowa will lean more on Tyrone Tracy Jr. in the passing game with Smith-Marsette moving on. 

Tight end Noah Fant is the only previous player to opt out of the Hawkeyes’ postseason. Fant announced he would not return following Iowa’s win against Nebraska at the end of the 2018 regular season and became a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos.