Feb. 2, 2011
Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Eleven months before running into the University of Iowa record book, Marcus Coker was one of 14 DeMatha Catholic (Md.) High School Stags signing a National Letter of Intent to play Division I football.
Like a cross section of all recruits, the DeMatha group was represented by some that enjoyed the attention of the process, highlighted by daily phone calls and frequent visitors during school hours. The quiet Coker did not.
“They would pull us out of class and all that stuff to talk with coaches,” Coker said. “That’s one reason why I committed early, so I could stay in class and get my education.”
Coker, who lives in Beltsville, Md., was highly pursued after rushing for 1,698 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior (he gained 3,533 yards with 43 scores in high school). Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Illinois from the Big Ten Conference drooled over the possibility of the 230-pound Coker in their offensive backfield. So too did Wake Forest, Stanford, Kansas State, LSU and Maryland.
But his only official visit was to Iowa…and he already had his mind made up after a previous unofficial stay in Iowa City with his mother and aunt.
“I took an unofficial visit out here and to Minnesota,” Coker said. “I liked everything about Iowa, so it wasn’t a hard decision. We drove out here and we talked about it on the way back home and that’s when I decided this is where I wanted to come. I saw how nice the people were in town and I knew it would be like a family here.”
According to Coker, once you visit the University of Iowa and Iowa City, it’s easy to fall in love.
“People don’t understand what it’s all about until they actually come here,” Coker said. “There are two million people in D.C. and you might not think there is a lot to do out here, but there is.”
“I took an unofficial visit out here and to Minnesota. I liked everything about Iowa, so it wasn’t a hard decision. We drove out here and we talked about it on the way back home and that’s when I decided this is where I wanted to come. I saw how nice the people were in town and I knew it would be like a family here.”
UI freshman running back
As a true freshman, Coker played in seven games with four starts. He carried the ball 114 times for 622 yards and three touchdowns. Twice he surpassed the 100-yard mark in a game with 129 yards on 22 attempts during an 18-13 win at Indiana on Nov. 6 and 219 yards on 33 carries during a 27-24 win against Missouri on Dec. 28 in the Insight Bowl. Coker was named the offensive MVP at the Insight, setting Hawkeye bowl records in attempts and yards.
“I came in and I was able to help the team win some games, so that’s what I wanted to do,” Coker said. “I don’t think about being the MVP of the game, I think about it as helping the team get a W.”
Coker has established some high standards in the classroom as well as on the football field. He is in the midst of his second semester at the UI, majoring in astronomy and physics with the goal of one-day working for NASA. Compared to Coker, most of the 2011 Hawkeye recruits won’t have as complex of an academic load; they won’t have a choice when it’s time to strap on the pads in college.
“The complexity of the game,” Coker said, when asked for the biggest adjustment from high school to the Big Ten. “The complexity of not only learning and playing your position, but also the complexity of the people on the other side of the ball trying to stop you.”
If the scene at DeMatha is the same today as it was in 2010, the student-athletes will sign their scholarship offer, pose for photographs and then enjoy some time together at Buffalo Wild Wings.
“Seeing my mom’s face when I signed the paper is what I remember most,” Coker said. “The school gave us the day off, so I also remember hanging out with (the 13 other Division I signees).”
The merger between Coker and the Hawkeye football program is a success. So much so that there are several other former Stags interested in wandering around the Hayden Fry Football Complex when camp reopens in the summer.
“I talk to them all the time and not always about selling the Hawkeyes,” Coker said. “I’m more like that big brother figure, telling them to do whatever makes them happy and go wherever they think they need to go. Of course I throw in there that being a Hawkeye would be a great fit.”
Today is National Signing Day for college football. To get up-to-the-moment information about the most recent Hawkeyes, click HERE (and select BLOG at the top of the page).