Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State safety Greg Eisworth wants more after successful first season

Big 12 Newcomer of the Year is leader in secondary

Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Kyle Groeneweg (14) misses a pass under pressure from Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Greg Eisworth (12) in the fourth quarter of their NCAA football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Kyle Groeneweg (14) misses a pass under pressure from Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Greg Eisworth (12) in the fourth quarter of their NCAA football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

AMES — Iowa State safety Greg Eisworth earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and first-team All-Big 12 honors as a redshirt sophomore after transferring from Ole Miss by way of Trinity Valley Community College.

It was a successful year by any measure. He led the Cyclones in tackles per game with 7.3 and had five pass breakups, four tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, a sack and an interception.

But Eisworth wants more.

“I’m my biggest critic,” Eisworth said. “Accolades, I’m obviously honored and humbled to receive them, but at the same time I know what I need to improve on.”

This was Eisworth’s first season playing safety at a power-five level. He was a high school quarterback, and like former Iowa State running back David Montgomery, another high school quarterback, he relied on his football IQ and natural ability. As Montgomery got older, he learned how to actually play running back. Eisworth wants to follow in that mold.

“I just feel like knowing the game as a whole from the safety position is something I need to improve on,” Eisowrth said.

He said he’s lucky to have a defensive coordinator as experienced as Jon Heacock, who coached safeties last season.

“We saw that (raw) ability his first year,” current safeties coach D.K. McDonald said. “We could tell when we recruited him. His mentality is very unique. When he gets on that field, he’s a different guy. When you interview him, he’ll have a smile on his face and he’ll talk.

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“But when he gets on that field, he’s like the Incredible Hulk. It’s really fun when you see a guy with that type of intensity and that type of football knowledge and that type of work ethic. You know they can do something.”

Fellow safety Braxton Lewis said Eisworth’s competitive edge doesn’t always stop when he gets off the football field.

“He’s a competitor,” Lewis said. “We play board games at his house and he’ll compete just as hard. That’s what we all love about him. He’s going to try and win at everything he does.

Lewis and Eisworth play Family Feud and Catchphrase. But their favorite game is Sequence.

“He introduced me to Sequence,” Eisworth said. “We started battling at that during the bowl game and ever since then it’s kind of been our game that we play.

“We talk (trash) back and forth a lot. It could be anything and we’d be competing against each other. It’s a lot of fun.”

The biggest area Eisworth has grown in has been in the leadership department. After Brian Peavy and D’Andre Payne graduated, the secondary needed a new leader to step in.

“The sky is the limit for him,” McDonald said. “What I’m excited about is to see his leadership and to see how he has taken over for the guys that have graduated. He’s the leader of the group. That’s been fun to see him take those young guys underneath his wing. That’s been the biggest growth I’ve seen out of Greg.

“He’s always been a great talent and a great kid, but now he’s become a great leader for us and filling that void we had in the secondary.”

McDonald said Eisworth took over the leadership role as soon as the Alamo Bowl ended.

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“It’s always fun in this profession to see young guys come in and take on those big roles,” McDonald said. “He’s going to take us as far as we can go.”

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