April 19, 2008
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Paki O’Meara has lived many places during his lifetime — Wilmington, North Carolina, Melbourne, Australia and Western Samoa. One place the University of Iowa redshirt sophomore’s name has never resided has been at the top of the Hawkeye depth chart at running back.
O’Meara, a walk-on who graduated from Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Washington High School, was not listed on the two-deep coming out of spring drills a year ago. After a season of seasoning, where he excelled on special teams, O’Meara is now part of a three-headed running back monster that also includes Jayme Murphy and Nate Guillory.
“Paki’s the most experienced guy,” said quarterback Jake Christensen. “All those guys have different tools. Paki is more of a power guy. He’s a good leader and a real strong player who is good at pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield.”
Protecting the quarterback has been the most difficult adjustment for O’Meara, who in high school was first team all-state and once rushed for 349 yards in a game.
“When you have a huge linebacker flying in and you have to block him…that’s the hardest part,” O’Meara said.
O’Meara opened Saturday’s scrimmage as the starting UI running back. Like the other ball carriers who followed, yards on the ground were hard to come by against a stingy Hawkeye defense.
“I did all right,” O’Meara said of his scrimmage performance. “The d-line and defense overall did a really good job shutting us down. I felt like I could have done a better job on a few plays, but overall I thought everything went pretty good.”
O’Meara was born in North Carolina before moving to Australia and then Western Samoa. He relocated to Cedar Rapids in 1998 and was immediately won over by the black and gold.
“I’ve been a big Hawkeye fan ever since,” O’Meara said. “I watched and I loved Iowa football. There’s a lot of significance for me because of that. When I came here this is obviously what I wanted to do. This is what I’ve been shooting for, so to get the opportunity to do this feels good. All the hard work I’ve put in feels like it’s finally starting to pay off.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said he would have no reservations if the season started tomorrow with O’Meara as the top Hawkeye running back.
“If we have to, that would be fine,” Ferentz said. “Paki has done a real nice job out there. He’s practiced hard and improved. He’s a real conscientious young guy. If he’s the starter, then we’ll go with him and have a lot of confidence in him.”
O’Meara recognizes that there is plenty of work to be done before a starting running back is officially anointed. Also in the mix are junior Shonn Greene and incoming freshmen Jeff Brinson and Jewel Hampton.
“It’s definitely up in the air,” O’Mear said. “Nothing is concrete at all. We still have a camp and preseason to go through.”
Last season O’Meara appeared in 12 games and made five tackles — all on special teams. The Hawkeyes won four of their final five league games, including consecutive victories against Michigan State, Northwestern and Minnesota to become bowl eligible for the seventh season in a row.
Iowa opens the season with three straight home games, beginning on Saturday, Aug. 30, against Maine. That will be followed by games against Florida International (Sept. 6) and Iowa State (Sept. 13).
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