CHICAGO, Ill. – Iowa junior linebacker Josey Jewell made history on Tuesday.
The Decorah native is believed to be the first non-senior under Kirk Ferentz to represent the Hawkeyes at Big Ten Media Days, which were held on Monday and Tuesday in Chicago.
Jewell was accompanied to the annual media day event by Iowa senior quarterback C.J. Beathard and senior cornerback Desmond King.
"I feel privileged to be able to be up here with these guys, C.J. and Desmond," Jewell said while surrounded by reporters. "It’s just an honor for me to be here to represent the University of Iowa."
And to think, it almost didn’t happen, considering Jewell was a late addition to Iowa’s 2013 recruiting class.
Jewell figured he was headed to either Northern Iowa, which he said had agreed to pay for his books, or Division III Luther, which is located in his hometown.
"I was close to going to (Northern Iowa) maybe or Luther was another option," Jewell said. "Both of those were probably my next two options to go to. I didn’t want to go too far away. I didn’t want to go to North Dakota State or somewhere like that. Really, I just wanted to stay close."
Northern Iowa increased its offer to a full-ride scholarship after Iowa had extended Jewell an offer. But for Panthers, it was too little and too late.
"I said no thanks," Jewell said of the Northern Iowa offer.
Iowa assistant coach Reese Morgan kept telling Jewell to be patient throughout the recruiting process. Jewell’s patience finally paid dividends when the Hawkeyes made the late offer.
"I didn’t know if he was being honest or not," Jewell said of Morgan. "I couldn’t tell since the scholarship wasn’t there. He kept on telling me about it. And I was like, `I don’t see it yet.’
"So I was just waiting for it. But he was truthful in his word. And it finally came about."
Jewell has been earning his scholarship ever since.
After being redshirted in 2013, Jewell saw action in 11 games as a freshman in 2014. He missed the first two games in 2014 while recovering from a broken hand, but then started the last four games at middle linebacker.
Jewell then emerged as a star last season when he led Iowa with 126 tackles as a third-year sophomore. He also made second-team all-Big Ten last season.
Jewell’s impact goes beyond making plays on the field. He also excels as a leader and has a strong work ethic.
The Iowa coaches showed their respect for Jewell when he was named one of Iowa’s co-captains last season despite only being a sophomore.
"It’s very humbling," Jewell said of being named a captain. "It was a great surprise."
The Iowa coaches also agreed that Jewell should represent the team in Chicago as a junior.
"It’s interesting, to that point we’ve never brought anybody other than seniors here," Ferentz said. "It’s something that we’ve tried to do traditionally going back 18 years.
"I surveyed the staff on who they thought would be the three best players to bring here. Our staff was basically unanimous with Josey."
Jewell said he had extra motivation when he arrived at Iowa as a lightly recruited prospect.
"I was just kind of motivated by how people talked to me," Jewell said. "People talked to me in high school; you’re not going to make it. You’re not fast enough."
Jewell usually tries to ignore the criticism, but he made an exception with those who doubted his ability in high school.
"I actually listened to the noise for once, I guess, in high school, which is beneficial to me because I like the negative noise " Jewell said. "And I like when people kind of talk down to me.
"Then you can try to prove them wrong. And that’s what I like trying to do, trying to prove people wrong and prove that you’re just a little bit better than people think."