IOWA CITY, Iowa – Texas is known as the Lone Star State, but that couldn’t be more inaccurate when it comes to college football recruiting.
In that case, Texas is filled with stars, some of whom have their sights set on the resurgent Iowa football team.
That includes 2017 four-star running back Eno Benjamin, who made a verbal commitment to Iowa in April. The Wylie, Texas native picked the Hawkeyes over at least two dozen other scholarship offers from schools that include Michigan.
Texas four-star receiver Camron Buckley announced on Twitter on Friday that Iowa was among his top seven schools, along with Auburn, Houston, Arizona State, Texas, Miami (Fla.) and Ole Miss.
Iowa is also considered one of the favorites to land Texas three-star quarterback Kamron Fields.
“It would be huge for Iowa to get a pipeline going to Texas,” veteran recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said recently. “Getting Benjamin to commit is the way you start something like that.”
Benjamin is now spreading the word about Iowa to fellow recruits from his home state. Part of his sales pitch is explaining what Iowa is really all about.
"I’m getting them to understand that Iowa isn’t what it’s told to be," Benjamin said Friday. "Down here, when people say Iowa they think farms. But I’m letting them know it’s actually quite different. It’s beautiful in Iowa City."
The fact that Iowa recently upgraded its facilities is also part of Benjamin’s sales pitch in Texas.
"I compare (Texas) A&M’s facilities to Iowa’s," Benjamin said. "We have everything they have, if not better."
The national signing day still is eight months away in February, but it’s fair to say that Iowa is making noise in Texas.
It can be traced to a number of factors, probably none more important than Iowa’s success from last season when it set a school single-season record with 12 victories.
The Hawkeyes are relevant again on the national stage. And it’s starting to show in recruiting.
Iowa’s 2017 class, which currently consists of 10 players, is ranked 12th nationally by Rivals.
The class is bolstered by a strong local presence with six players from in state already having made verbal commitments to Iowa.
However, the 2017 class still needs skill players, and there are few places better than talent-rich Texas to find them.
“They can go after their skill-position players elsewhere than Iowa because there really aren’t many in Iowa,” Lemming said.
Iowa also could be taking advantage of the current state of affairs in Texas.
The Texas Longhorns are struggling under head coach Charlie Strong, while Texas A&M is trying to overcome the public relations disaster caused by assistant coach Aaron Moorehead, who recently went on a Twitter rant after a five-star quarterback had backed out of his commitment to Texas A&M.
From a recruiting standpoint, Texas has been good to the Iowa football program over the years, especially during Hayden Fry’s 20 seasons as head coach from 1979 to 1998. Fry was born and raised in Texas and he made recruiting in his home state a priority while coaching the Hawkeyes.
Fry also had assistant coaches with ties to Texas, including his long-time defensive coordinator Bill Brashier.
Some of Fry’s best players were from Texas, most notably running back Sedrick Shaw, who is Iowa’s all-time leader rusher with 4,156 yards.
Current Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz also has recruited in Texas, but not to the extent that Fry did, although, that could be changing.
Iowa offered scholarships this week to two defensive backs from Texas, including three-star recruit Matt Hankins.
"I’m extremely excited,” Hankins said. “They had such a great season last year and their defense was stellar, so it meant a lot knowing that they think I can play at that level.”
Much like with Fry, the current Iowa coaching staff has strong ties to Texas.
Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis grew up in Texas, attended college in Texas and was the long-time offensive coordinator for the University of Texas, helping the Longhorns win the 2005 national title.
Iowa receivers coach Bobby Kennedy coached the same position at Texas under Davis from 2004-10.
They’re both familiar with the recruiting landscape in Texas and have numerous contacts throughout the state.
And now they also have Benjamin recruiting for Iowa in Texas.
"I’ve made a lot of progress," Benjamin said. "I feel good about it."
Tyler Devine contributed to this article