CHICAGO, Ill. – The beauty of college football was on full display when Desmond King, C.J. Beathard and Josey Jewell took center stage at Big Ten Media Days.
Three young men from three different states and three vastly different backgrounds were there to represent their football family, united by a common goal and mutual respect.
Few things bring people together better than sports.
It’s reasonable to assume that the lives of King, Beathard and Jewell never would’ve have crossed paths without football acting as a catalyst.
King grew up in Detroit, which has little in common with Beathard’s hometown of Franklin, Tenn., and even less in common with Jewell’s hometown of Decorah.
Their paths almost didn’t cross, though.
King had made verbal commitments to two Mid-American Conference schools before the Hawkeyes showed serious interest in him as a defensive back.
Beathard committed to Mississippi as a quarterback, but he decided to explore other options after the Rebels had a coaching change. He eventually picked Iowa and arrived on campus as a 170-pounder who had redshirt written all over him.
And Jewell barely had any options as a linebacker before the Hawkeyes entered the picture with a late scholarship offer.
It’s these kinds of humble beginnings that have helped to fuel a willingness to succeed. There is no place for complacency with Beathard, King and Jewel leading the way because they understand and appreciate what it means to be an Iowa football player.
“Not much has changed,” Beathard said Tuesday when asked if he has noticed any difference in attitude or intensity coming off the first 12-win season in school history. “We’re still preparing to be the toughest, most physical and hardest-working team out there.
“We don’t get the four-star and five-star recruits like some other teams do. So we have to out-prepare people, out-hustle and out-tough people and out-works guys. And that’s what we do in the off-season program. We put a big emphasis on the off-season.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was at his self-deprecating best on Tuesday as he talked about his three player representatives.
“When I saw Desmond’s film, I’m an astute judge of talent right; I thought he’d be a really good safety,” Ferentz said of the 2015 Jim Thorpe Award winner. “So he hasn’t played safety yet for us, other than in practice.
“But the good news is he’s just really had a good career. He was a really good high school football player who maybe just didn’t meet a couple of people’s expectations. But he’s really played well for us and had to play well at an early age.”
Jewell’s life changed dramatically when Iowa finally made him a late scholarship offer. He probably was headed to either Northern Iowa or Division III Luther College, which is located in his hometown.
“I always chuckle to myself, he could be playing at Luther right now, probably, a lot of people in that conference are glad he’s playing for us because he’s a pretty physical guy,” Ferentz said of Jewell, who started all 14 games at middle linebacker last season, leading Iowa with 126 tackles. “That shows it’s a fine line between winning and losing, and recruiting is the same way.”
Beathard probably was the most heavily recruited of the three, but that isn’t saying much. He had some nice options, but Beathard was hardly a mega-recruit.
“I don’t know who the top quarterbacks were when C.J. came out, but I’m not sure we’d want to trade him for anybody,” Ferentz said. “In fact, I know we wouldn’t.”
It was neat watching the three players talk about each other at media day on Tuesday.
Beathard never has much to say about himself, but he went on and on when asked what makes King special as a game-changing cornerback.
“He’s just got a knack for the ball,” Beathard said. “He’s got an instinct about the game. He recognizes formations and route schemes and he just knows a lot of times where the ball is going to be thrown even before it’s thrown just because of his knowledge of the game.
“He’s got a thing about him; you can find the best receiver in college football and he’s going to step up to that level, even if he’s not the fastest guy. He’s a very fast game player.”
Beathard described Jewel as being the ultimate football player and competitor.
“He’s a crazy dude, especially when it comes to football,” Beathard said. “He’ll do anything to tackle a guy. He’s just a great leader, a great player. He’s a leader of the defense, he and Desmond are the leaders of the defense.
“He gets a lot of guys respect for just the way he plays. He works his tail off. Every play you watch on film he’s hustling to the ball. He’s winning reps in practice and winning strength and conditioning speed-rep stuff in the off-season. And that stuff gets very noticed by guys in the program and the coaches notice that. Everyone respects him immensely.”
King had a chance to skip his senior season to enter the NFL Draft, but he ultimately decided that part of his life could wait. King is determined to graduate from college and he’s part of football family that means a great deal to him.
“I wasn’t really surprised,” Beathard said of King’s decision to return to Iowa. “I wouldn’t have been surprised either way. I was talking to him throughout the process. He has my support either way. We’re glad and lucky to have been back here with us again this season.”
Jewell said Tuesday that he felt privileged to be the first non-senior under Ferentz to represent Iowa at Big Ten Media Day. Part of that feeling came from being alongside his two senior teammates.
“It’s an honor to represent the University of Iowa and my teammates,” Jewell said. “It’s an honor to be with Desmond and C.J.”
Iowa fans should be honored to have three players representing their football team with the class and poise that King, Beathard and Jewell all showed on Tuesday.
They didn’t even know each other four years ago, but now they share a bond for life thanks to football.
That sometimes gets overlooked in the never-ending quest to win games.
But the games will only last for so long. Friendships last forever.