One of the luxuries Iowa will have this year is a senior season from cornerback Desmond King. He flirted with the NFL a bit towards the end of last season after his draft stock soared thanks in large part to a campaign that resulted in him being awarded the Jim Thorpe Award. The nation's top defensive back was among the country's leader in interceptions and passes defended.
King ultimately chose to return to the Hawkeye football program for his final year in college, a decision many of his teammates were excited about and as well as all the Iowa fans. He discussed picking Iowa over the opportunity to leave early for the NFL Draft.
"I came back for a lot of reasons," King said. "I came back for my education and that was my first priority. That's why I'm here at the university. And to bond with my teammates. It's a family atmosphere here and everything. We all care about each other. It's like a brotherhood bond. I talked to a couple of my teammates, my family, a couple of my coaches and told them I want to focus on football once I'm done. I can get my education, and once I'm done with my education I can focus on football after that."
"I thought about what life after football would be like," he added. "Getting your degree, that's something nobody can take from you. (Having to make my decision) was pretty fast but at the same time you have to think about what's more important to you. My education was."
Another key aspect to King's decision was some of the experiences he could only have if he returned to Iowa City. Those lasting memories played a role in him suiting up for the Hawkeyes for one more season.
"(Senior day with my mom) was another thing," he admitted. "Having my mom waiting out there for me. Hearing the fans cheering me on for the last game of the season at the home stadium. That's something that you can never get back. That's a good moment to have."
One of the teammates that was in King's ear and spoke to him as he was going through the decision process was quarterback C.J. Beathard. The Iowa signal caller was one of the first people to receive the news that King would return.
"Yeah he was (one of the first people I told)," King confirmed. "It's like a family atmosphere so I had to get input from my teammates. I knew he had my back no matter what my decision would be. He would be in my corner. He said to make the decision and do what's best for you."
"I feel like everything is coming in handy as far as training, being with teammates, experiences like this coming to Media Day," he continued. "It's a blessing to have it. I'm glad to be back here for my senior year and getting the season started."
A downfall to a decision to return to school instead of declaring for the draft and beginning to get paid to play football is the possible risk involved. You're putting your body through another college season where injury is always a possibility. It happened a year ago with Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith where his injury in the Fiesta Bowl caused him to slip mightily in the draft. King knows that's out there but refuses to let it impact his approach and game play and doesn't let the critics or skeptics shape his choices.
"I really don't think about injuries as much," he pointed out. "Keeping my body healthy, staying healthy has got to be the main priority for anybody. You have to take care of the body. If you know you feel that you're banged up, get it taken care of right away. It's just being careful out there on the field and being aware of everything."
"It was about keeping everything away from me," King shared about the folks that may not believe he's made the right decision in returning to Iowa. "Hearing people say he's not going to come across the same statistics, he can't put these numbers, he can't do this, he can't do that. There's a lot of people that can say I can't do anything. Only God can tell what I'm going to do in the future. That's what I leave it up to. It's my ability and I know what I can do with it. I just have fun."
With the season now fast approaching, King can put all the questions to rest and let his play do the talking. But you won't see him change his attitude, approach, style, or work ethic from what it was a year ago. He's the same guy that won the Jim Thorpe Award as a junior.
"Nothing is going to change," he explained. "You have to set goals the way you want to perform in the season. My same goal is to stay humble, stay ready, play the best I can be, because anything can happen at any point in time so just be ready."null