OSU roots run deep for Iowa's John Lowdermilk
IOWA CITY — John Lowdermilk's first on-field experience with the Iowa Hawkeyes was not a positive moment for Coach Kirk Ferentz.
Lowdermilk, Iowa's co-first-team strong safety entering fall camp, grew up in Kensington, Ohio as the son of former Buckeyes center Kirk Lowdermilk. In 2009 he was dressed in scarlet-and-gray at Ohio Stadium when Ohio State beat Iowa 27-24 to claim the Big Ten title in a winner-take-all game. Two years later, he joined the opposite side.
"That was Vandy’s (Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg) first start," Lowdermilk recalled this spring. "I was actually there rooting for Ohio State against Iowa in a game that went into overtime. I actually rushed the field and everything. It’s weird how things work out."
This year Lowdermilk gets his only opportunity to play at the renowned "Horseshoe" in Columbus. The Hawkeyes travel to Ohio State on Oct. 19 (2:30 p.m. ABC) in the teams' only scheduled meeting until at least 2016.
"It’s going to be weird because growing up I was an Ohio State fan and went to a lot of Ohio State games throughout," said Lowdermilk, a junior. "It definitely will be pretty cool. I’ll have a lot of family there watching. It will be a weird feeling."
Lowdermilk (6-foot-2, 203 pounds) is listed alongside fellow junior Nico Law at strong safety after spring drills. Lowdermilk played in 11 games last year for Iowa and registered six tackles. He backed up Tanner Miller at free safety and played on a majority of Iowa's special teams. He likes the move to strong safety.
"I’m definitely getting a better feel of it," Lowdermilk said. "The game’s slowing down, and I like the physical part of it. You’re a little closer to the line of scrimmage, not as much in pass coverage as the free. I probably like that a little bit more."
Lowdermilk doesn't look to his father for advice on playing his position, however. Kirk Lowdermilk played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts. He started every game in his last six seasons, 150 overall. He retired after the 1996 season.
"We talk about it, but he doesn’t really know much about defensive backs," John Lowdermilk said with a laugh. "He thinks that if you cover a guy, you did a good job. So he talks more about just working hard and spending extra time in the film room and things like that."
That is advice John Lowdermilk embraces every day. He's also learning from defensive coordinator Phil Parker, who regained control over the secondary this offseason.
Parker had coached defensive backs from 1999 through 2011 before relinquishing those duties last year. Parker now coaches the secondary and uses video to break down the errors from both last season and this spring. Lowdermilk said he's picked up a great deal from Parker.
"In spring ball during install we’ll go like how that mistake was made and in cover-2 get your shoulders turned and things like that," Lowdermilk said. "Just so you don’t make the same mistake twice.
"We really struggled on the back end of the Michigan game. I’d say you’d have to remember it a little bit. You just can’t repeat it and make the same mistakes. We definitely remember it."A typical response from a player with a scarlet-and-gray pedigree to remember a bad performance against Michigan. He'll get his chance to prove himself against both the Wolverines (Nov. 23) — and his heritage — this fall.