Junior defensive tackle Faith Ekakitie was one of the most heavily recruited players on the Iowa football team.
He picked the Hawkeyes over scholarship offers from at least 20 other schools, including Oregon, Nebraska, Stanford and Wisconsin. He also was ranked by most recruiting services as a four-star prospect on a scale in which five stars is the highest ranking.
However, three years later, Ekakitie still hasn’t started a game for the Hawkeyes, who will finish spring drills on Saturday with an open practice at Kinnick Stadium.
Ekakitie is listed as a backup at defensive tackle this spring. He should be in the mix for more playing time this coming season now that Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat have used up their eligibility after combining for 64 starts at defensive tackle.
“As a competitor everyone wants to play,” Ekakitie said Wednesday. “But at the same time, you have to realize that a lot of that is put on yourself.
“So if you’re not playing, there is a reason you’re not playing and you have to identify that and you have to take care of it.”
Ekakitie has appeared in nine games as a Hawkeye, including six last season. He has two more seasons to live up to the enormous hype that accompanied him from high school.
“I think it’s a big year for the entire team, the entire defense as a whole, not just for me,” said Ekakitie, who was redshirted as a freshman in 2012.
“I mean, obviously, as an individual player I’m trying to progress and take steps to become a better player.But I feel like our entire defense is taking a step forward.”
Ekakitie, who was hampered by an injury last season, has gained a few pounds in preparation for having a bigger role this fall.
"Just coming in during the winter and trying to get bigger and faster and taking care of my body," he said. "That’s another thing I think as your get older that you have to focus a little more on."
Ekakitie grew up in Canada, but he attended Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Ill., for high school. He also lettered in basketball and track in high school, but football offered him the best opportunity for advancement.
Ekakitie has played both defensive tackle and defensive end since becoming a Hawkeye. The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder is listed as the backup at left defensive tackle behind fellow junior Jaleel Johnson.
Ekakitie said he doesn’t have a preference between playing tackle or defensive end. He just wants to play.
“I’ll play wherever the coaches ask me to play,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to me.”