Former Iowa running back Marshall Cotton has the good fortune of knowing that he can’t lose no matter what happens at Jack Trice Stadium today.
He can thank his two sons for that.
Cotton is in the unique position of having a son who plays for the Iowa football team and another who plays for Iowa State.
He will pay close attention when the Cyclones kick off because they’ll be kicking to Cotton’s oldest son, Jordan Cotton, who is a senior receiver and return specialist for the Hawkeyes.
His other son, Darian Cotton, is a third-year sophomore defensive back and a member of Iowa State’s kickoff team.
“I’m pretty fired up,” Marshall Cotton said Wednesday night in a telephone interview. “I don’t even know how to explain it. I’m just happy as heck that I have the opportunity to see both of my boys on the same football field this weekend together.”
Darian Cotton is eager to compete on kickoffs against his older brother, who led the Big Ten and ranked 14th nationally with a 28.2 kick return average last season. Jordan Cotton also returned a kick 92 yards for a touchdown against Penn State last season, which tied for 10th longest return in school history.
“Obviously, he’s a phenomenal kick returner and the challenge is he’s the only guy back there,” Darian said of his older brother being the only player deep for Iowa on kickoffs. “So no matter what, he’s getting the ball. So we have to key on exactly what they’re doing. And if they’re blocking and doing what they’re supposed to do, then he can hit it at anytime.
“He finds the crease and hits it. He’s not one of those guys that really jukes around or anything like that. Once he finds that crease, he’s going to hit it and take off. We’ve got to make sure that we stay in our lanes and do exactly what coach says so we can execute and make good plays.”
Darian Cotton acknowledges that Jordan is faster than him, but Darian learned years ago how to compensate for that.
“He’s one of the fastest people I know,” Darian said. “But I will be as physical as possible to slow him down. That’s how it always worked growing up. He was always faster than me, so I had to kind of man up and try to be more physical than him.”
Marshall Cotton said he hopes that Jordan will break loose for some long kick returns before Darian brings him down. Darian looks forward to being matched one-on-one against his speedy brother in an open field.
“I will have to take him down,” Darian said. “There is no other way. If I don’t, I’m going to look like a fool just because I’m going against my brother and people are going to make fun of me for doing that.
“So I’ve got to go down here and give him a big pop. If I do that, the coaches are going to be happy. And my dad will love that.”
Iowa State has won the last two games against the Hawkeyes, which means Darian is undefeated against his older brother and has bragging rights.
“Every time we’re back home, he rubs it into me,” Jordan Cotton said. “It’s my last time playing against him and against Iowa State. So I have to try and get the bragging rights back for me.”
Darian expects to do a little trash talking with his brother on the field today.
“I never shy away from talking smack to my brother at all,” said Darian, who is listed as the backup at strong safety. “So far, I’ve always had the bragging rights in college and I want to keep that up. I know it’s his last chance, but I’ve got to keep those bragging rights.”
Darian’s decision to attend Iowa State meant that his father, who grew up in Davenport and played at Iowa from 1984-87, had to expand his wardrobe. Jordan sees a lot more red and gold when he returns home to Mount Pleasant to visit his parents.
“I go back home and I find a whole bunch of Cyclone stuff in his closet right next to his Iowa stuff,” Jordan said. “It’s kind of funny.”
The Cottons will be a family divided during today’s game. They even have T-shirts to mark the occasion. The plan is for Marshall to wear black and gold and sit with the Iowa fans, while his wife, Cindy, represents Darian and the Cyclones.
“My mom usually goes and sits on (Darian’s) side of the stadium with some of my family members,” Jordan said. “My dad usually sits on my side since he went here. So it only feels right if he does sit on my side. It’s definitely fun for my family. We have the whole house divided T-shirts and everything made.”
The fact that both of his sons are on scholarship is not only a financial benefit to Marshall and his wife, but also a source of pride.
“That really makes me happy and my wife happy,” Marshall Cotton said. “I couldn’t have imagined it happening like that.”
Darian said it’s strictly a coincidence that he and his brother both wear No. 23. Darian wore No. 24 in high school, while Jordan wore No. 25.
“Honestly, I don’t really know how it happened,” Darian said.
The family embraced Darian’s decision to attend Iowa State despite their connections to Iowa dating back to Marshall’s days as a Hawkeye.
“(My dad) really didn’t care as long as his school was paid for,” Jordan said. “It wasn’t that big of a deal. My brother didn’t want to follow me and my dad’s footsteps. So we’re both supportive of him and he’s happy where he’s at.”
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football