No pressure, no worries

Iowa+defensive+back+Greg+Mabin+runs+to+the+sidelines+in+Kinnick+Stadium+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+5%2C+2015.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Redbirds%2C+31-14.

Iowa defensive back Greg Mabin runs to the sidelines in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. The Hawkeyes defeated the Redbirds, 31-14.

Mario Williams, [email protected]

Throughout much of Greg Mabin’s life, overcoming pressure has been easy.

Mabin is the youngest sibling of four, with two older sisters and an older brother.

For much of his childhood, being picked on as the younger brother was something he had to deal with.

Usually, his two older sisters demanded that he get something for them — pretty much follow their orders. Mabin, now a starting defensive back for Iowa, did as they pleased.

He had to grow up tough and able to defend himself. It was something he learned along the way from being the youngest.

That’s when football came into place.

Mabin’s mother said that he loved football before he barely could talk. As a child, Mabin carried around a soft pillow in the shape of a football that he never let leave his side.

“I had this mother’s intuition, and I knew he would go in the direction of football,” Arlette Mabin said. “He understood the game early on.”

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where Mabin and his family live, City Ball was a place for young boys to play organized football. Mabin first played flag football, then transitioned to tackle.

He dominated in every aspect of the game, primarily at wide receiver.

Guy Shashaty was Mabin’s City Ball coach and later on his wide receiver coach at Calvary Christian Academy. During Mabin’s freshman year, he went to public school, but he transferred to Calvary Christian for his remaining three years of high school.

A bit of convincing from Shashaty led Mabin to transfer to Calvary Christian.

Mabin played both the wide receiver and cornerback in high school, but he had more passion and love for playing receiver.

Shashaty realized during Mabin’s sophomore year that Mabin was becoming a transcendent player.

They competed against Kings Academy, which at the time was a powerful rival and the team to beat in Florida. To beat the academy was difficult. Mabin’s team did.

And he shone.

The game was back and forth until Mabin took a punt back for a touchdown, which sent the game into overtime. He made plays offensively, defensively, and on special teams.

Whenever Mabin was called upon by his coaches to complete a task, he did it. He never let the pressure get to him. Shashaty said Mabin was always ready to go. Always prepared. Always ready for a challenge.

“It was really one of those Wow games for him,” Shashaty said. “When the rubber met the road and pressure was on, Greg would rise up. Some players shrink, and some people get big and say ‘I’m the guy, give me the ball and I’ll make the play.’ That was always Greg. He had a lot of natural talent and ability.”

The most noticeable difference in Mabin’s game as he got older was that he played with more strength and never folded, no matter what the situation.

Being demanded throughout his childhood and learning how to be tough helped make him more aggressive, yet also gave him heart.

“Football gave him the inner strength he needed to be tough,” Arlette Mabin said. “He needed that to play a tough sport and to survive in a tough world.”

By the time his high-school career ended, he had earned three varsity letters while playing receiver, defensive back, and kick returner. During his senior year he totaled 877 yards and 15 touchdowns on 52 receptions, with 1 rushing touchdown and 2 interceptions and a touchdown on defense. He had 59 receptions for 1,094 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior.

Growing up in Florida, Mabin wanted to play college football in the South. Tulane, Middle Tennessee State, and Jacksonville State all offered Mabin scholarships. Several larger schools also showed interest.

But Mabin went away from home. Far away from home. Money was tight for the Mabin family, seeing how Mabin was the youngest of four. So when it came time for him to attend college — and when Iowa offered him a full ride — the Mabin family jumped on it right away.

Former Iowa starting quarterback Jake Rudock’s father gave Hawkeye coaches Mabin’s tape. Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz, former wide receiver coach Erik Campbell, and former recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson made a trip to Florida to recruit Mabin.

At the time, he was recruited to be a wide receiver.

“When he got there he said, ‘Mom, this is it,’ ” Arlette Mabin said. “I said ‘Really? Oh, wow, OK.’ I just prayed that God gave him wisdom and showed him exactly where to go.”

He redshirted his freshman year, and during the following spring, his career shifted.

Mabin wanted to switch his jersey number from No. 88. However, Ferentz had a different idea in mind — changing positions. He now wears No. 13 as a defensive back.

Coming off shoulder surgery and considering it’s his last season, Mabin might be facing the most pressure he’s ever seen as a Hawkeye.

Even as a third-year starter, he’s compiled a solid college-football résumé. He’s solidified himself as a defensive playmaker and has 25 career starts, including 14 during the 2015 season. He recorded 54 tackles and 2 interceptions, and he broke up eight passes. As a sophomore he had 53 tackles and an interception.

With all his success, one would think he would be in the spotlight, or at least a larger topic of conversation. But many overlook his success because he plays on the opposite side of the Jim Thorpe Award Winner, Desmond King.

Many Big Ten quarterbacks this season, if not all, are going to give Mabin their best shot.

And what’s clear is that this season may be one in which he will have to overcome lots of pressure and outside noise. He’s done well with it before and doesn’t plan to stop just now.

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