The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa cornerback DeShaun Lee delivers in his Hawkeye debut against Utah State

The redshirt freshman started in place of Jermari Harris and collected six total tackles on Saturday.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Iowa defensive back Deshaun Lee celebrates during a football game between No. 25 Iowa and Utah State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. The Hawkeyes lead the Aggies, 17-3, at halftime.

In Iowa football’s 24-14 season-opening victory over Utah State on Saturday, cornerback Deshaun Lee demonstrated what it meant to be a Ball Hawk. 

Back in fall camp, the redshirt freshman beat out other Hawkeye defensive backs for the Ball Hawk Award, granted to the player who made the most plays in the secondary, and included 106-yard pick-six in the effort, per Hawkeye safety Xavier Nwankpa. 

Even with the title, Lee was listed as the second-string corner behind starter Jermari Harris on the Hawkeye depth chart. 

Yet, on Saturday morning, Lee was pushed into the No. 1 slot as Harris was declared out due to injury. 

Lee said in his postgame media availability that he was playing with the starters for the past few weeks of practice and found out he would be the starter earlier in the week. Such preparation was evident, as Utah State’s first two plays from scrimmage resulted in Lee tackles. 

“I’m happy they did [target me],”  Lee said. “It woke me up a little bit.” 

Even with his juices flowing, the Belleville, Michigan, native didn’t execute everything to perfection. In the first half, Lee missed a tackle on Aggie receiver Jaylen Royals, allowing a Utah State first down. 

The very next play, though, Utah State quarterback Cooper Legas threw a screen pass in Lee’s direction. The play only went five yards, as the cornerback met the wideout head-on for an almost instantaneous takedown. 

Lee credited this turn of events to simply being a defensive back where the nature of the position requires a “next play mentality” and the ability to neglect the past. In addition to his short-term memory, the 5-foot-10, 187-pounder is a keen learner. According to Lee, he’s always taking advice from older players and is on his tablet watching film “24/7, anytime.” 

Such studying of the playbook has made a noticeable impact on his teammates, especially Iowa linebacker Jay Higgins, who said he was “very proud” of Lee, as the 19-year-old cornerback was committed to making the right decisions, even if those choices didn’t light up the stat sheet. 

Higgins explained how Utah State ran a trick play, one where Aggie quarterback Cooper Legas rolled out of the pocket and averted his eyes away from a vertical route. Instead of following the QB’s looks, Lee didn’t trail off from his coverage, resulting in Legas not having an open-man to throw to. 

“In the defense room, when [Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker] is watching defense and he sees a young defensive back stay patient and disciplined on a trick play, that’s all we can ask for,” Higgins said. 

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said he was impressed with Lee’s performance, but maintained that the cornerback remain level-headed, and not overconfident. 

For Lee, the opportunity to start a game in front of 69,250 people was something he won’t take for granted. After making a tackle in the first quarter, Lee let out a passionate scream. 

“It was just me being in the moment, a lot of hard work being put in,” Lee said. “I finally made a play in a college game, so it was just a lot of excitement.” 

The Ball Hawk has swooped in, and is ready to continue making plays. 

“I was just ready for my number to be called, just preparing a lot, putting in a lot of work,” Lee said. “So I’ll be ready when my day finally does come.” 

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.