Hawkeye football’s Easley reflects on his journey to Iowa

He’s five catches from the century mark in his career, but Nick Easley isn’t focused on milestones.

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Hawkeye football’s Easley reflects on his journey to Iowa

Iowa wide receiver Nick Easley navigates the defense during a football game between Iowa and Maryland in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, October 20, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 23-0.

Iowa wide receiver Nick Easley navigates the defense during a football game between Iowa and Maryland in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, October 20, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 23-0.

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa wide receiver Nick Easley navigates the defense during a football game between Iowa and Maryland in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, October 20, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 23-0.

Shivansh Ahuja

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa wide receiver Nick Easley navigates the defense during a football game between Iowa and Maryland in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, October 20, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 23-0.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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TAMPA, Fla. – With one game left in his Hawkeye career, Iowa wide receiver Nick Easley is just five catches shy of reaching 100 for his two-year tenure in the Black and Gold.

Reaching the century mark for career catches isn’t his top priority when Iowa – a win against Mississippi State on Jan. 1 in the Outback Bowl reigns supreme.

Snagging 100 receptions, though, would be nice.

“Obviously, I would [want to],” Easley said. “I’m not going to lie to you. But, I’m not really focused on it. To be honest, I didn’t even know. I saw my brother tweeted something the other day [about] my 95th catch or something. I didn’t even know how many I had up until that point. I don’t even know how many I have this season to be honest with you.”

Easley’s humble, focused attitude is reflective on his football career as a whole. As someone who had no Division One offers coming out of high school and worked his way to Iowa’s top wide receiver.

Missouri Western, a Division Two program, was Easley’s only offer, but it wanted the wide receiver to do more than just catch. The Griffons wanted him to kick and punt – Easley was a standout kicker and punter in high school to go along with his receiving skills.

Instead, Easley went to Iowa Western in Council Bluffs, where he wasn’t the team’s top receiver. Being buried on the depth chart made Easley rethink his choice.

“My first year, to be honest with you, I hated it,” he said. “… I remember talking with my dad and being like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this anymore.’”

However, Easley flourished in his second season, and eventually wound up at Iowa – the uncertainty around his football career didn’t stop there, though.

Coming into the 2017 season, wide receivers coach Kelvin Copeland essentially had to put together a wideout group on the fly. There were no clear-cut standouts heading into that year, as the position was one of Iowa’s biggest question marks.

But, Easley turned out to be the leader of the group, both statistically and mentally.

“Nick has been tremendous,” Copeland said. “We basically came in together. We learned together, literally, and we learned each other. He’s been a blessing in disguise. I’m glad Brian [Ferentz] made that call.

“It was pretty clear to see early on, in spring ball practice and meetings, that this guy was a little different. He was locked in, he was engaged, he was taking notes… right away in the 2017 season we saw the product of that.”

Easley hauled in 51 passes (including 4 touchdowns) for 530 yards in his first season with Iowa. This season, he’s caught 44 passes for 390 yards and 3 touchdowns.

“Nick needs to be recognized for what he’s done,” Copeland said. “Two years, being the leading receiver at Iowa. Came in as a walk-on, earn a scholarship, back-to-back leading the team in receiving, there’s something to be said.”

Easley’s departure opens up the slot position for the Hawkeyes, and he mentioned two players in particular who he thinks will step up once his time with the program comes to a conclusion.

“Two guys come to mind: Max Cooper and Nico Ragaini,” he said. “Both guys have demonstrated the ability to play in the slot, both kind of quick, guys who really aren’t top-end speed but sudden in their routes. For them, they’ll get more reps as I leave.”

But that’s next season. Easley still has another game left, and it’s an opportunity for the receiver to look back on what’s been a winding, thrilling career.

“All the seniors really appreciate their time at Iowa,” Easley said. “Certainly, taking the path I did – a little different than most people – it really means a lot to me.”

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