Dec. 29, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
LOS ANGELES — There will be plenty of brawn on the playing field when the 102nd Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual kicks off Jan. 1 in Pasadena, California.
There will also be brains.
Here are two questions asked to Stanford football players at a Rose Bowl Game news conference:
“Does it help being at Stanford, high academics, that these guys can process so much information?”
“You’ve got a lot of smart guys around your locker room.”
Despite having 45 Academic All-District and 12 Academic All-Americans since Kirk Ferentz took over as head coach at the University of Iowa in 1999, those questions were not asked to players representing the University of Iowa.
This is where perception meets fact: The 2015 Academic All-America Division I football team as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America includes Cardinal sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey on the first team. The second team includes Hawkeye senior safety Jordan Lomax.
McCaffrey has a 3.31 grade-point average and an undeclared major; Lomax, who already has a bachelor’s degree, earned a 3.49 GPA in economics (he opened a second major in sports and recreation management for the fall semester).
In other words, there are pretty sharp student-athletes in Iowa City, Iowa, as well as Palo Alto, California. Lomax is a prime example.
“It is all about time management and priorities and knowing when you have to focus on your sport and when you have to focus on school,” Lomax said. “You can’t act like the average college student who only goes to school — you have to have good time management because you can get caught up and lost in your sport and forget you have academics also.”
Lomax is a key contributor for the No. 5-ranked Hawkeyes, who take a 12-1 record into Friday’s Rose Bowl Game. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound senior from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, is third on the team with 92 tackles. He also has six pass break-ups, an interception, forced fumble and tackle for loss.
Before Lomax could participate in Little League or play with friends on weekends, his parents, Pamela and Earnest Lomax, made sure Jordan devoted a certain number of hours to school work.
“I have to give thanks to my parents who instilled in me when I was younger about the core values of having academics before being able to play a sport. I had to get Bs or higher. They didn’t like me getting Cs. They felt Cs were for an average student and they didn’t see that in me. They wouldn’t accept anything below a B.”
UI senior safety
“I have to give thanks to my parents who instilled in me when I was younger about the core values of having academics before being able to play a sport,” Lomax said. “I had to get Bs or higher. They didn’t like me getting Cs. They felt Cs were for an average student and they didn’t see that in me. They wouldn’t accept anything below a B.”
On the field, Lomax has been remarkably consistent. As a junior in 2014, he compiled 92 tackles (he has 92 as a senior) with 44 solo (he has 44 as a senior) and 48 assists (he has 48 as a senior). Last season Lomax had six pass breakups (he has six this season), with a forced fumble (he has one this season), and one tackle for loss (he has one tackle for loss this season).
A microeconomics class taught by Stacey Brook at the University of Iowa got Lomax hooked on economics.
“It was challenging for me and I was able to understand it,” Lomax said. “It was something I liked.”
Lomax said professors like Brook — and all of his football coaches — have been in his corner for the past five years.
“I had some great instructors that have always been there for me if I needed extra help study-wise,” Lomax said. “All my instructors have had an open-door policy. If anything was going wrong or if I didn’t understand something, I could easily talk to them and they would explain it and help me.”
There are plenty other impressively intelligent Hawkeyes. Senior defensive end Drew Ott — who was first-team Academic All-District VI — graduated in the spring with a degree in health and human physiology.
“It has been excellent, the classrooms are friendly,” Ott said. “I have never had a teacher I couldn’t go to during office hours and talk about a class if I didn’t understand something. It has been warm and welcoming.”
Senior linebacker Cole Fisher graduated Dec. 19 with a degree in civil engineering.
“The education I received at Iowa was top notch in my mind,” Fisher said. “They do a good job preparing you and getting you the right experience. I have no complaints. I feel prepared for the future because of Iowa.”
UI junior offensive lineman Ryan Ward puts another dent into the “dumb jock” stereotype. The Academic All-Big Ten honoree carries a 3.7 GPA in health and human physiology. He wants to pursue a career in medicine.
“You have to have your priorities aligned,” Ward said. “You can play video games or you can go to class, study, and get a good night’s rest. It’s about having the mental toughness to go through it when certain things sound better than sitting down and studying.”
No. 5 Iowa (12-1 overall) takes on No. 6 Stanford (11-2) on Friday in the 102nd Rose Bowl Game. Both teams feature outstanding athletes. Both teams feature outstanding students.