Marcus Paschal expected the day to come, sooner rather than later. Even with his alma mater, Iowa, only lightly recruiting the state of Florida, the bond formed between he and the Hawkeyes was too strong.
Phil Parker recruited and then coached Paschal to an all-Big Ten senior season as a safety in 2006. The pupil then spent five seasons in the NFL before taking over the head coaching position at his alma mater, Largo (FL) High, in February.
Paschal was lightly recruited. Parker, now the Hawkeye defensive coordinator, stole him away from Hoftsra.
Like many of their former players, the Hawkeye staff stayed in contact with Paschal. He let the coaches know he'd love to hear from them if they were interested in any of his players.
"I went to the Outback Bowl (January 1st in Tampa) and talked with the (Iowa) coaches," Paschal said. "They told me that they're still open to finding players in Florida if they have a connection. I told them that I was a connection."
With significant staff turnover during the last several years, Kirk Ferentz announced that the Hawkeyes were shifting recruiting focus away from Pennsylvania and Florida, two states that proved fruitful for the program in the past, to dig more into Ohio and Texas. Iowa scholarship offers have been handed out in Florida and Pennsylvania since the switch and it figured to continue for a program needing to search far and wide for prospects.
The competition for players is stiff in states like Florida. Iowa must make up ground on big name schools to be in the race. With someone like Paschal at Largo, he can put a face on the Hawkeyes from his experience with them. That's what he intends to do for Crawford or any other future prospects his alma mater may pursue.
"I'll just let him know what Iowa is about and not push him. People here trust me because I'm from this community. All the kids know me and my history. My job is to give them all of the information I can during the process so they can make the best decision for them. If it's Iowa, so be it. I will say it's always good to have the Hawkeyes in the race, though," Paschal said with a chuckle.
Paschal started for three seasons at Iowa. He earned honorable mention all-league honors as a junior before landing on the second team in his final college campaign. He totaled 199 career tackles, picked off three balls, accumulated three tackles for loss and broke up 17 passes.
"I tell my guys whenever they ask about Iowa that the best part is the family environment that Coach Ferentz instills. Iowa City, in general, is a great place and it was great for me to experience something so culturally different from where I came from. I had a lot of fun in college," Paschal said.
Paschal, who turns 30 in August, played part of five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens. He overcame the odds as an undrafted free agent just as he did making it in the Big Ten when no other BCS schools offered outside of Iowa.
A reported ninety people applied for the Largo football job when it came open this winter. Paschal rose to the top after serving as an assistant with the program and giving back to the community for years, including his youth football camps there.
"Just from his knowledge you can tell he knows what he's doing," Crawford said. "With the drills we do and how we run a practice, it makes you better."
Paschal can get on his players when necessary.
"He yells, especially when we do something wrong on defense," Crawford said with a laugh.
Paschal said he talks with Parker about once a month. Assistant Chris White has been recruiting Largo for the Hawkeyes.
"Coach Parker wrote me a letter of reference for this job. I also speak with Coach (Darrell) Wilson and Coach (Jerry) Montgomery quite a bit and ask all of those guys for tips and advice," Paschal said.
Montgomery played at Iowa before becoming a student assistant with the Hawkeyes in 2002. He's worked his way up the coaching ladder from Iowa City West High to his current position as the Oklahoma defensive line coach.
Wilson served on the Iowa staff for 11 years before returning to his native New Jersey and Rutgers University last year. He has recruited Largo for the Scarlett Knights.
Paschal's commitment to his players surfaced in the recruitment of '14 cornerback Cordell Hudson. The Largo standout trimmed his list of potential schools to Syracuse and Rutgers, where Wilson was the lead recruiter.
"Cordell felt like Syracuse was the place for him," Paschal said. "He felt most comfortable there and I stood with him by that decision. That's what it's about. I was comfortable with Iowa that's why I chose to go there."
Some prep coaches are known to "help out" college programs in hopes up bettering their career position. That won't be the case with Paschal.
"This is my dream job," he said of Largo. "I met my wife at Iowa and my daughter was born in Iowa. I'm a family oriented guy and this allows me to coach the sport I love, give back to my community and still be daddy and watch my children grow up. This is where I want to be."