Iowa freshman defensive back Xavier Nwankpa made his first career start in the Music City Bowl on Saturday and the former five-star recruit and Southeast Polk graduate rose to the occasion by recording a pick six in the 21-0 victory.
Nwankpa also met with the media afterwards and here the transcript:
QUESTION. You enjoyed it?
XAVIER NWANKPA: Yeah, for sure.
Q. Who did you see on the pick-6?
XAVIER NWANKPA: I saw the ball in the air and a chance to go get it. I really blacked out after that and just ran in the end zone. Celebrated with my teammates. It was a special moment.
Q. I saw you kind of play the deep middle.
XAVIER NWANKPA: Yeah, we rolled back to cover-three at that point.
Q. Just an overthrow, and you were in the right spot?
XAVIER NWANKPA: Right place, right time.
Q. How would you grade your own performance?
XAVIER NWANKPA: I would probably give myself a B. There were a couple of mistakes I made, and always room
for improvement, so just focusing in on getting back after the new year.
Q. What was the moment like when you found out that you were going to be starting?
XAVIER NWANKPA: It was pretty crazy. Leading up I was repping with the ones once Kaevon announced he= was going to the draft. I was getting repps, getting used to everything, getting used to the speed, so helped me play to this moment now.
Q. Phil Parker pointed to you specifically about making big strides over the last few weeks in bowl prep. How would you assess your growth, especially over the past couple of weeks?
XAVIER NWANKPA: That was really my focus, I was trying to get better every day. Working out two positions. I really played free throughout the year. So playing strongand just learning from the people around me. Especially Kaevon. He just helped me, helped guide me up there.
Q. What did it mean to you to make that type of play?
XAVIER NWANKPA: It really meant a lot. The team has been pushing me, helping me grow, so really making that play helped show what they’ve done for me and helped me grow.
Q. How does that kind of help give you a positive feeling out of your freshman year at Iowa? You didn’t play a ton of regular snaps, but this game had to mean a lot for you going forward.
XAVIER NWANKPA: Oh, for sure. Definitely it set the bar for me where I have to go, where I have to improve from, so just keep making plays, having fun throughout the spring and getting ready for next fall.
Q. In the game you were down hitting in the box. You weren’t exactly standing back letting everybody do things. Then I think there was one situation where they head-butted you out on the sideline and did no-call or whatever. What was kind of going through your mind? Hey, I’m going to make you pay for that?
XAVIER NWANKPA: For sure. Really, like, it was a little chippy at times. It’s whatever. It’s football. Go out there and have fun, make plays. Really that wasn’t really my focus. I was just focused on going to the next play making a play and trying to win the game.
Q. Were you excited about the secondary you have coming back next year? You think about Cooper and
Jermari and Sebastian?
XAVIER NWANKPA: For sure. We really have a chance. We really have a chance to keep making an impact, keep the “doughboy” tradition alive and just go out there and make plays and have fun.
Q. This is the first Big Ten defense to sport a shut-out in a bowl game since 1999. Other than Tory, I don’t know if any of you guys were born then. I guess what do you think of the accomplishment of getting the shut-out? Was that something that maybe by halftime you were — and the third quarter were you guys building towards, hey, we want to keep this going?
XAVIER NWANKPA: Yeah, for sure. Our plan is to not let anyone score any game, but through the third quarter we were really, like, focused on keeping that shut-out. Hopefully Coach Parker or someone will bring some doughnuts for the plane ride home tomorrow.