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Freshman Desmond King proving critics wrong

[ 0 ] October 21, 2013 |

Desmond King’s high school football coach has a message for all the Big Ten schools that refused to offer King a scholarship, especially those schools within a 400-mile radius of Detroit:

“I know he’s playing with that chip on his shoulder,” said Rod Oden, who coached King at East English Village Prep in Detroit. “Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue and all those schools where the coaches come in and out of our hallway all the time and had multiple opportunities to evaluate him, but chose to wait.

“He said (to me), ‘I’ve got to makes these guys pay.’ ”

Desmond King has impressed coaches with his ability to contribute as a true freshman. (AP photo)

Desmond King has impressed coaches with his ability to contribute as a true freshman. (AP photo)

True freshmen at Iowa are prohibited from speaking to the media. So instead, King has spoken with his play on the field. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for his performance in last Saturday’s 34-24 loss at Ohio State, which included a career-high 12 tackles, including 10 solo stops.

King replaced injured starter Jordan Lomax in the second game at right cornerback, but now a healthy Lomax can’t get his position back.

King is expected to make his seventh consecutive start when Iowa (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) faces Northwestern (4-3, 0-3) Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

Oden isn’t surprised by King’s early success.

“Desmond has the ability to be great,” Oden said Monday afternoon in a telephone interview. “And it was seen in him early on. I knew that once he settled in with the coaches down there at (Iowa), I was confident they would bring that out of him.”

King’s only Big Ten scholarship offer came from Iowa, even though he set a Michigan high school record with 29 interceptions and twice made first-team all-state. He was likely headed to a school in the Mid-American Conference and was briefly committed at different times to Ball State and Central Michigan.

But then Iowa offered King a chance to pursue a cherished opportunity.

“He knew he wanted to play football in the Big Ten Conference,” Oden said. “And he had no doubt that he could play at that level. A lot of schools around here were kind of skeptical of him because they didn’t know where to play him.”

Oden believes King, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, also could be a force at running back in the Big Ten. King rushed for 2,360 yards and scored 33 touchdowns as a high school senior last fall.

Oden said Michigan and Michigan State both were interested in King joining their program as a walk-on, but with no set position.

“If they were going to take him, they were going to take him as an athlete,” Oden said. “So it was kind of do I go here and be an athlete? I just felt he was selling himself short.”

Oden said King’s recruitment basically ended once Iowa offered him a scholarship. The fact that Oden and Iowa defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Phil Parker are friends helped to seal the deal.

“I knew that what he was telling us was genuine and real,” Oden said of Parker. “And I knew that once somebody took notice of what (Desmond) was able to do, he was going to be a great (addition) to whatever team that was.

“Iowa just fit for him.”

King’s emergence as a Hawkeye is similar to how he burst on the scene in high school.

“He got on the field as a sophomore for me the same way,” Oden said. “He came in and really took an upperclassmen’s spot.”

The knock on King as a recruit, according to the feedback Oden received, was that he was too small to play safety and too slow to play cornerback at the BCS level.

“He was a mid-range speed guy,” Oden said. “But like I told coaches, do you want a track star or do you want a football player? He’s a football player.”

Oden said King’s greatest strengths as a football player just come naturally.

“He has what you can’t teach,” Oden said. “His ball skills are second to none. You’re talking about a kid who every year got better.”

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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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