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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Marvin Lampkin had several excuses in case he didn’t succeed in football or life. He refused to use them.
Lampkin grew up in the projects of East St. Louis, where the poverty level was 60 percent. Despite running 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Lampkin stood just 5-feet-8 and weighed 190 pounds, so his friends dismissed the idea of him making it as a Division I student-athlete.
Lampkin, who played running back for the Hawkeyes from 1988-92, is honorary captain for Saturday’s game against North Dakota State.
“My mother wouldn’t tolerate excuses so that wasn’t an option,” Lampkin said Friday after addressing the UI football team in the Stew and LeNore Hansen Football Performance Center. “It was a motivator for a lot of different reasons. It made me work hard to make sure I was going to be among the best in the country.”
Lampkin lettered for the Hawkeyes during the 1990 season when Iowa played in the Rose Bowl, in 1991 when Iowa played in the Holiday Bowl, and in 1992 when Iowa finished 5-7.
“The learning lesson (in 1992) was, did we do everything we needed to do to prepare to win?” Lampkin said. “Physically I thought we were where we needed to be, but mentally I don’t think we did the things we needed to do to prepare for a successful season in the Big Ten. It is a grind and you have to be ready to go every week and we fell short on the mental side.”
It took Lampkin four years to become the featured running back for the Hawkeyes. He was groomed behind Tony Stewart, Nick Bell, and Mike Saunders before rushing for a team-high 653 yards in 1992.
“You need to control what you can control and I didn’t go out and do the extra things I needed to do to make sure I was in shape and ready to go,” Lampkin said of his first four years in the program. “I had all this talent, but I still needed to understand the college game better and focus on what I could control and that was getting myself prepared.”
Lampkin, now 46, resides in southern Illinois and is a senior portfolio account manager at Astellas, a pharmaceutical company.
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz was the lead recruiter for Lampkin, who starred for the East St. Louis Flyers, a program that won six Illinois high school state and two national championships.
“I wanted to be more than just a football player. I knew there was life after sports, so I needed to make sure I was prepared for that.” — Marvin Lampkin
“Coach Ferentz was the critical part of (me coming to Iowa); (head) coach (Hayden) Fry and (running backs) coach (Carl) Jackson were big pieces in that as well,” Lampkin said. “Coach Ferentz because of the trust we developed and the trust my mom had in him. Iowa gave me this impression that it is about you as player, but it is about you as a student and a person. Iowa was going to challenge all three of those areas, not just one.
“I wanted to be more than just a football player. I knew there was life after sports, so I needed to make sure I was prepared for that.”
Nicknamed “Scooter” by Fry, Lampkin is still in contact with many of his Hawkeye teammates. He is proud that so many of them — like himself — have gone on to excel outside of football.
“That is a great sense of pride to me,” Lampkin said.
No. 11 Iowa hosts North Dakota State at Kinnick Stadium (11:01 a.m., ESPN2) Saturday. Lampkin will accompany Iowa’s captains to midfield for the pregame coin toss. He will also be with the Hawkeyes in the locker room before and after the game.