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Pat Harty: Iowa running back poised to get football career back on track

[ 0 ] August 19, 2013 |

As a former all-state running back at Sioux City Heelan, Michael Malloy is used to gaining yards after contact.

It’s how running backs succeed. They absorb hits and try to keep moving forward.

Malloy is in a similar situation off the field.

He absorbed two big hits before he started college, the first being a knee injury that caused him to miss most of his senior season of high school football. He then was arrested after an incident in Nebraska last summer and charged with four offenses, including possession of drug paraphernalia.

Malloy eventually pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing a peace officer, and part of the fallout was losing his scholarship to the University of Iowa coming out of high school.

Iowa running back Michael Malloy takes the ball down field during practice at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013. (David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Iowa running back Michael Malloy takes the ball down field during practice at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013. (David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen)

He still was allowed to be a member of the Iowa football team last season, but only as a walk-on. So Malloy not only had to earn the trust of the coaches all over again, he also had to pay a steep price to do it, considering the cost of college tuition.

“It definitely was a struggle going through all that stuff, especially with my injury and not being able to play my senior year,” Malloy said. “But I look at it as a learning experience. And I think it made me tougher as a person and more dedicated to the game.

“So I definitely think it’s been a good experience and a learning experience that I can take into the future.”

Read Pat Harty’s analysis of Iowa’s running back situation

The challenge for Malloy is to make this stretch of adversity a turning point in his life. He gave every indication at media day Aug. 8 that he’s doing that, one day at a time.

“I definitely learned that football is kind of like life,” he said. “There are a lot of ups and downs. And where there are downs, you just have to stay focused, stay determined and keep on pushing forward. And you can’t let that stuff affect the way you play or the way you interact with the game.”

Malloy seems determined to have his story end differently than that of another former star running back from Heelan.

Brandon Wegher seemed destined for stardom after rushing for more than 900 yards for Iowa as a freshman in 2009. But he quit the team before the 2010 season for reasons that are still unclear and is now finishing his playing career at Morningside College in Sioux City.

Malloy could’ve gone another direction after losing his scholarship to Iowa. But he stuck with his commitment and did what he was supposed to do on and off the field.

He is buried on the depth chart right now as one of eight running backs on scholarship. But earning back his scholarship was the first step in Malloy’s quest for redemption.

“It was pretty much just I had to be on the right path and be smart and do the right things and I would be able to get my scholarship back,” Malloy said. “And I feel like I did everything that I could and I was trying to just work hard and all the coaching staff did the right things, too. So I’m pretty happy about that.”

Interactive: Iowa’s 2013 football schedule

The 6-foot, 215-pound Malloy is an intriguing prospect at running back, a nice combination of size and speed. He holds the Heelan record in in the 400 meters at 48.58 seconds and won an Iowa state title a junior.

Malloy showed flashes at an open practice this past Saturday, including one play in which he flattened an Iowa defensive back on a run. He ran hard between the tackles, but also showed a little wiggle around the end.

Playing time might be hard to come by this season, but Malloy is determined to stay the course. It’s been nearly two years since he has played in a real game, and the time away from the spotlight has been humbling.

But it’s also been productive, considering Malloy is now healthy, bigger and no longer a walk-on.

“It was definitely a weight off my back just knowing that from now on I’m on a full scholarship,” Malloy said. “But I have to still keep in the back of my mind that I have earned it. But I also have to keep it going and I definitely have to prove myself going forward and be worthy of it.”

Malloy was withheld from competition last season, although, the Iowa coaches considered using him after injuries started to mount at running back. For Malloy’s sake, though, it’s better that he didn’t play because he still has four seasons of eligibility remaining.

And because it helped to send an even stronger message.

“I really wanted to play,” Malloy said. “Anyone wants to be on the football field. But at the same time, I respected the coaches’ decisions and I respected the players in front of me and how they were playing because they did a great job.”

A person’s character is questioned anytime they make the kind of mistakes that Malloy has made. But in fairness to Malloy, he wasn’t some out-of-control kid who always looked for trouble. He was a kid who made the Gold Honor Roll throughout high school, but who also made some costly mistakes.

Only time and his actions will show whether Malloy has learned from his adversity. One or two mistakes shouldn’t define a person, but it does shorten the leash.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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