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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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa defensive back Matt Hankins wants to get better at his craft and one way is to study film from the Hawkeyes’ 2016 season. He has kept a keen eye on All-America cornerback Desmond King.
Hankins was a senior at Marcus High School in Flower Mound, Texas, last fall; King was a senior for the Hawkeyes.
“It’s huge,” Hankins said about the history of Hawkeyes who find their way to the National Football League. “Desmond was a great defensive back here and I try to pick up on his techniques when we watch film.”
King has nine tackles and 2 ½ tackles for loss in his first season with the Los Angeles Chargers. There are two other Hawkeye defensive backs in the NFL: Micah Hyde with the Buffalo Bills and Greg Mabin, who is on the practice squad with the Bills.
“If you want to go to the (NFL), this is the best place to go,” Hankins said. “Coach (Chris) Doyle and his staff will get you right in the weight room and the football coaches will coach you up and make sure you do your details. They are detail-specific.”
Supporting Hankins’ claim is the fact 26 Hawkeyes are currently on an NFL active roster, practice squad, or injured reserve.
But there is a lot of college football remaining for Hankins before he ponders the next level. On the depth chart for Iowa’s Sept. 30 game at Michigan State, he is listed as the backup to junior Josh Jackson at left cornerback. In four games this season, Hankins has made two solo tackles with one assist.
“Matt has done a nice job,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Since the start of camp he seems comfortable in the defense and getting the scheme and techniques down. He has competed at a high level, so he has been our fourth corner during the course of the season and is playing on substitute defense and special teams.
“We think he has a good future. He has good skills, a great attitude, and works extremely hard.”
Hankins called playing as a true freshman “a dream.” Compared to high school, this dream includes larger crowds and a much faster pace.
“I have my older teammates to help me slow down so I can focus better,” Hankins said.
A year ago, Hankins was part of a Marcus Marauder program that finished 5-5. In 2015, Marcus went 10-2 and advanced to the second round of the 6A Division 2 University Interscholastic League playoffs. Hankins was first-team all-district as a junior and senior; during his three-year varsity career he compiled 109 tackles and 28 pass breakups.
Aside from gaining strength, Hankins said his game has developed by seeing the field better, and improving his footwork and communication.
“I want to get better at my craft,” Hankins said. “(As a team), we’re focusing on the next game right now, bouncing back from last week.”
Iowa is coming off a 21-19 setback against No. 4 Penn State. The Hawkeyes (3-1 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) travel to Michigan State (2-1, 0-0) on Saturday with kickoff set for 3:12 p.m. (CT).