The Last ride of Buddha and Googy

Iowa seniors Desmond King and C.J. Beathard lived that Hawkeyes life together

Photos by the University of Iowa's Brian Ray (courtesy of the University of Iowa)
Photos by the University of Iowa’s Brian Ray (courtesy of the University of Iowa)

IOWA CITY — You already know Desmond King is Buddha.

The Iowa senior cornerback came into the world on Dec. 14, 1994 a cherubic 8 pounds, 15 1/2 ounces. “Cherubic” is the word people use about big babies when they’re trying to be polite.

Yvette Powell, Desmond’s mom, is long past that.

“He was just pudgy,” Powell said. “That’s how he got the name ‘Buddha.’ Everyone has called him that since he was a kid. We still call him that. In fact, it was weird to him when people called him ‘Desmond.’”

So, Desmond is Buddha, Buddha is Desmond.

That’s one of the posters.

Did you know that C.J. Beathard is “Googy”? The story on the Iowa quarterback’s family nickname is pure whimsy.

“I don’t know, but everyone at the house for some reason, we all just started calling him ‘Googy,’” said Casey Beathard, C.J.’s dad. “‘Hey, Googs.’ ‘What’s up, Googs?’ Then, Susan (C.J.’s mom) started calling him ‘Googy Boy’ or ‘Googy Something.’ It was always just ‘Googs.’ It was really weird. It just took. We started calling him that when he was young. Privately, whenever I see him or even now when he calls, I’ll go ‘What’s up, Googs?’”

Googy was the other poster for the Iowa Hawkeyes (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten) this season.

This isn’t exactly “Pancho and Lefty,” the country music tune that Townes Van Zandt wrote and Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard made famous. If one of these two does, however, get drafted by the Cleveland Browns, they will be headed toward cold times in Ohio. Same thing for the Arizona Cardinals and the desert, but these are future thoughts.

Today is the last ride for “Buddha and Googy,” two stars who helped Iowa reach great heights in 2015 and then just couldn’t boost things enough to reach those same highs this year.

Beathard’s year began with a sprained knee in fall camp. He still hasn’t shed the offensive lineman-sized knee brace. Through injuries and really every element buckling hit at one point or another, Iowa’s passing offense also has been in a knee brace all season. This week, King found out he didn’t make the list of finalists for the Thorpe Award, the trophy (which came with a Rolex) he won last season as the nation’s top defensive back.


“You don’t always get that opportunity in life more than once,” King said. “I have friends who are finalists on that list, Adoree Jackson and Jourdan Lewis. I just congratulate them and hope we finish the season strong.”

Beathard leaned into the brotherhood of the game with all the questions about senior day this week. With Iowa, it’s something we only see glimpses of. The players live it, good or bad. North Dakota State or Michigan.

Ah yes, the Michigan game. The field rush of 70,585 on the Kinnick Stadium field. Ten million viewers on ABC. Someone stealing Beathard’s helmet and taking pictures with it in the Ped Mall, posting those pictures before Iowa City Police returned it to the Hawkeyes.

“You can’t put a price on that, all the money in the world can’t buy that feeling,” said Beathard, speaking about the field rush after Iowa knocked off No. 3 Michigan. “You bond with these guys. You’ve put in all of the work. It’s one of those things you have to work toward. The only way you can be a part of that is if you’ve been here and are a part of this family. You’ll miss the feelings in the locker room after big wins, like the Michigan game.”

When it comes to Buddha and Googy, the concept of family hits.

When the Big Ten Network was in town before the Michigan game, Powell came through the Hansen Performance Center just as Beathard wrapped up a news conference.

They met in the room and gave each other a hug.

“I fell in love with C.J. when we first got here in 2013,” Powell said. “He reminded me of the character ‘Sunshine’ (from ‘Remember the Titans’) and I told him that. Then my son Desmond said, ‘Momma, leave him alone!’ And I said, ‘This is your brother now, I can talk to him and let him know how I feel.’ We’ve been cool ever since.”

It’s easy to throw around the concept of “brotherhood” and “family,” especially when it comes to football. The Beathard-King relationship really is a concrete example.

King is a Detroit, Mich., native whose favorite meal and restaurant back home was hot dogs from Coney Island. Did you know he spent a year as a wrestler? He gave it a shot when he was 12.


“You can still see some of his wrestling in his football, even though he was afraid of it at the time,” Powell said. “He noticed his neck swelled up after doing all of the workouts and it scared him. He thought something was wrong.”

Beathard is a Franklin, Tenn., native. His dad writes country music songs for people you’ve heard of. His grandfather will be an NFL Hall of Fame general manager probably sooner rather than later.

There’s more to this than moms and dads in the stands wearing the same colors and buttons of their kids.

“Those guys always seemed to be together and I don’t think it was until last year that (C.J.) realized how much Des meant to him,” Casey Beathard said. “He would just talk about him all of the time. He was proud of everything Des did.”

At the end of last season, King had to answer, for himself, the NFL question.

“I learned how close they were when Des was going through that he called C.J. and asked what he should do,” Casey said. “C.J. said, ‘I understand if you’ve got to go, but I think, if nothing else, selfishly, I will miss you badly. I think the team really will miss you.’

“I think that meant a lot to Des. That’s when I found out how close they were. I think those guys are just kind of the same. They have big families, their moms mean a lot to them, they’ve just got a lot in common.”

One thing they definitely have in common is posters. For the first time in a long time, Iowa decided to shoot two schedule posters for the 2016 season. King, a consensus All-American, and Beathard, who was a second-team all-Big Ten pick last season, were the choices.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t know who came up with the idea of dual posters. Beathard’s showed up in early August, and then King’s dropped later in the month.


When they came out, teammates generally razzed King and Beathard. Hey, that’s part of brotherhood, too, no?

“C.J. and Des might not have asked for that spotlight, but they’ve stepped up when they’ve needed to step up,” senior tight end George Kittle said. “Hopefully, that carries into Friday.”

But who’s poster is cooler?

“Desmond’s might be a little bit cooler,” Kittle said. “He’s got that swag about him.”

(For the record, Beathard grabbed just three. His mom wanted a couple, at least that’s what he said.)

Now, this is the last ride for Buddha and Googy at Kinnick Stadium.

When that BTN aired the “Journey” episode, showing Desmond growing up and playing youth football in Detroit, Casey Beathard watched and then texted Powell.

“I’m so proud of them,” Casey said. “What a family she’s raised and how well she’s done, where they come from and what they do. He’s just a top-notch human. I’m proud that C.J. gravitates toward guys like that.”

When King did decide to return to Iowa, Beathard actually was the first person he called, before Ferentz and before defensive coordinator Phil Parker, who recruited King and who’s been his position coach for four years.

“I told C.J. ‘We’re going to tell you this first, because you’re his brother and I want you both to get together and lead your team this year,’” Powell said. “He said, ‘He’s coming back, momma?’ I said, ‘He’s coming back, but he never left.’”


King will be the first college graduate in his family. Of course, that was a huge part of his decision. He’ll walk across the stage in December, along with Beathard, senior defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson and a host of the other 14 seniors.

“I love that he caught on to the message when he was young,” Powell said. “You always finish what you start.”

Last ride for Buddha and Googy.

They’ll lead their collective sides of the ball down the tunnel and out onto the Kinnick field one more time. It could be a “Pancho and Lefty” fate. That is No. 16 Nebraska (9-2, 6-2) out there. You know Iowa has been as reliable as a water divining rod this season.

Maybe it works, maybe ... what’s a water divining rod?

This is where the boys need to listen to momma. Finish what you started.

“It’s been a long road this season, but I’m looking at the way that they’re playing now,” Powell said. “They want the fans to remember them as fighters. I love that about the Hawkeyes.”

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