Southeast Polk five-star safety Xavier Nwankpa announces commitment to Iowa football

Alyssa Hertel
Des Moines Register

PLEASANT HILL — Five-star safety Xavier Nwankpa committed to Iowa on Wednesday. He made the announcement on his birthday, and shared the news from Southeast Polk High School. 

Nwankpa said after his announcement that he told Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa staff that he was committing during their in-home visit on Monday, but it didn't exactly go according to plan.

"We were sitting there talking about today ... like what I was gonna do for my birthday," Nwankpa said. "I thought he was asking like where I was gonna go eat afterward and it kind of just slipped that I was gonna (commit to Iowa)."

He said that recruitment was a cool experience, but he's also glad he's done and committed so that people aren't always asking him where he plans to go.

Nwankpa is one of the top prospects in the country. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound safety is the Register's No. 1 in-state 2022 prospect. He is also the No. 1 safety and No. 11 overall 2022 prospect, according to the 247Sports Composite. He holds north of 30 offers from Division I programs, but narrowed his top three options to Iowa, Notre Dame and Ohio State in October. 

He took his last official visit to Iowa for the Penn State game the weekend of Oct. 9. Nwankpa followed that with two unofficial visits to Notre Dame on Oct. 23 and to Ohio State on Oct. 30. The last month of his recruitment was relatively quiet, save for in-home visits with all three of his final options.

Notre Dame changed head coaches in the last week of Nwankpa's recruitment, and it had an impact on his final choice. While Nwankpa liked Marcus Freeman at Notre Dame, the switch-up showed him what was important in his chosen school.

"I wasn't really dead set (on his decision), but it definitely made a focus on stability, which is a big part for me, which ultimately helped make the decision," Nwankpa told the Des Moines Register. 

Southeast Polk five-star safety Xavier Nwankpa committed to Iowa on Wednesday, making his announcement after months of speculation.

Nwankpa capped his high school career with Southeast Polk's first Class 5A state title in program history, highlighted by his fourth-quarter interception of fellow top prospect J.J. Kohl. On offense, Nwankpa finished the season with 391 yards and five touchdowns on five receptions. He also threw one 12-yard touchdown pass.

More:The origin story of Southeast Polk mega-prospect Xavier Nwankpa

On defense, Nwankpa recorded 26 total tackles, 23 of which were solo. He added one sack and one tackle for loss. He led Southeast Polk with four interceptions for 86 yards and made the All-Iowa Elite Team as a safety for the second straight year. He also returned eight punts for 191 yards, and two kickoffs for 116 yards and one touchdown.

Nwankpa will finish his time in high school football with a trip to the All-American Bowl in January, and he will early-enroll at Iowa in the new year.

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Alyssa Hertel is a college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.