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IOWA CITY — Iowa football has earned a solid reputation for churning offensive linemen and tight ends into ready-made NFL-caliber products.
But the secondary nearly is as decorated under Kirk Ferentz (and secondary coach/defensive coordinator Phil Parker) the last 18 seasons. Since 2000, Iowa has produced 11 draft picks at cornerback and safety and that number surely will grow with cornerbacks Desmond King (the reigning Jim Thorpe Award winner) and possibly Greg Mabin next spring. Six of the last seven years Iowa had a first-team all-Big Ten cornerback.
That output has impacted Iowa’s recruiting. Four-star Texas cornerback Chevin Calloway, who had scholarship offers from Texas, Alabama, LSU, Michigan and Ohio State among others, committed to Iowa in part because of Iowa’s success at turning cornerbacks into NFL players.
“With Coach Parker putting at least one DB in the league 11 out of the past 17 years he’s been coaching, it’s hard to beat that,” Calloway told Hawkeye Report when he committed to Iowa last month.
Many of Parker’s pupils recently completed underrated NFL careers. Charles Godfrey was a third-round pick in 2008. He shifted to safety and started 75 games before retiring this summer. Bradley Fletcher was a third-round pick in 2009 and started 54 games before shutting down this off-season. They combined for 19 career interceptions.
Injuries derailed former Iowa corner Amari Spievey’s career, but he was a three-year starting safety in Detroit and finished with five interceptions. Shaun Prater, a fifth-round pick in 2012, enters his fifth season in the league. Jordan Bernstine was drafted in 2012 and played in one game before suffering a career-ending injury.
“If you’re recruiting some guys and they see some guys that have played here, you try to explain to them that you will have opportunities if you come here,” Parker said. “You have an opportunity to play football and if you’re good enough, you’ll have a chance to go and play at the next level.
“If they start here, they’re going to be in (an NFL) camp.”
At safety, Iowa’s most recent draft picks include Tyler Sash (sixth round, 2011) and Sean Considine (fourth round, 2005). Both won Super Bowl rings. So did two-time All-Pro Bob Sanders (second round, 2004), who was the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 2007. Derek Pagel (fifth round, 2003) and Matt Bowen (sixth round, 2000) played in 19 and 77 games, respectively. Bowen now writes about the NFL for ESPN.
Along with the other cornerbacks, Micah Hyde has fashioned a nice career in Green Bay. In three seasons, Hyde has 22 starts and five interceptions. He also has returned three punts for touchdowns. Cornerback Jovon Johnson, who intercepted 17 passes at Iowa from 2002-2005, is in his 10th season in Canada. Johnson has 30 career interceptions and seven touchdowns.
Iowa’s undrafted players also have gained NFL opportunities. Safety John Lowdermilk spent last season on Minnesota’s practice roster. Cornerback B.J. Lowery signed with Denver this off-season. Safety Jordan Lomax agreed to terms with Los Angeles after the draft.
“It’s kind of funny when you start saying ‘this guy and this guy ...,’” Parker said. “There’s a lot more than people think.”
Drafted safeties — Matt Bowen, 6th round, 2000; Derek Pagel, 5, 2003; Bob Sanders, 2, 2004; Sean Considine, 4, 2005; Tyler Sash, 6, 2011
Drafted CBs — Charles Godfrey, 3, 2008; Bradley Fletcher, 3, 2009; Amari Spievey, 3, 2010; Shaun Prater, 5, 2012; Jordan Bernstine, 7, 2012; Micah Hyde, 5, 2013
First-team all-B1G — S Bob Sanders, 2001, 2002, 2003; CB Jovon Johnson, 2005; S Tyler Sash 2009, 2010; CB Amari Spievey, 2009; CB Shaun Prater, 2010, 2011; CB Micah Hyde 2012; CB B.J. Lowery, 2013; CB Desmond King, 2015-x
Second-team all-B1G — S Matt Bowen, 1999; S Derek Pagel 2002; S Marcus Paschal 2006; CB Charles Godfrey 2007; CB Amari Spievey 2008; S Brett Greenwood 2009, 2010; CB Micah Hyde 2011; S Jordan Lomax 2015 (third-team)
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