Male athlete of the year: Desmond King

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Iowa defensive end Desmond King returns a kick return during the Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. Stanford defeated Iowa, 45-16. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

 

Coming into the 2015 season, everyone had heard of Desmond King.

After strong freshman and sophomore seasons, he had settled into Iowa’s defense nicely. He was expected to be a good player last season — the next in a line of Iowa defensive backs to hear their names called at the NFL draft somewhere down the road.

Then, he broke through every expectation imaginable. King was named a unanimous consensus All-American — the first Iowa defensive back to do so.

In addition to those honors, he also won the Jim Thorpe Trophy (the nation’s best defensive back) and the Jack Tatum award, which is given to the Big Ten’s top DB. Add in that he tied Nile Kinnick’s and Lou King’s Iowa single-season interception record, and it’s not hard to see why King is The Daily Iowan’s male athlete of the year.

Perhaps King’s greatest moments came during Iowa’s 27-24 win over Pittsburgh. While the game will be best remembered for being won by a 57-yard field goal, it was a clutch kick return that gave quarterback C.J. Beathard and the offense an opportunity.

RELATED: Who should have been Iowa’s male athlete of the year?

It was also two interceptions by King in the first quarter that gave the Hawkeyes early momentum in the game. The eventual victory put Iowa on the map, and suddenly people started believing again.

Later in the unforeseen 12-0 start, players pointed to it as an important milestone of the season. There was just something magical about the night, the type of evening where the ridiculous and unimaginable become incredibly real.

King had a number of great moments over the season, but looking back, he may have kick-started the incredible run with a memorable performance.

However, his brilliance was on display in every game. King is an incredibly consistent player and never takes a play off. Superlatives easily roll off the tongue when his 2015 performance comes up in conversation, but there’s a reason — he simply is a rare talent.

He is extremely athletic, with 2 interceptions returned for touchdowns in his career, including an incredibly impressive 88-yarder this season. He also possesses great ball skills and a huge amount of instinct.

Much to the adoration of the Iowa fan base, King decided to return for his senior year. Projected as a first-round pick, he spurned the NFL for one last shot at college glory.

There are a variety of reasons for his decision to stay, but two stand out: He wanted to finish his education, and he felt there was unfinished business on the field.

King has a chance to be every bit as good as he was in 2015 during the upcoming season. If he has a year that resembles his junior campaign, his stock will go through the roof.

In Pro Football Focus’ first mock draft of the season, King was projected to go in the top five.

All-American honors could again be his, and there’s a not-insignificant chance King ends up with his name on the Kinnick press box.

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