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 defensive lineman Ethan Hurkett doesn’t take his situation for granted

The third-year from Cedar Rapids has made two plays this season in the clutch, helping to seal wins over Iowa State and Nebraska.
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Cody Blissett
Iowa defensive lineman Deontae Craig and Iowa defensive lineman Ethan Hurkett interact after a football game between Iowa and Nebraska at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln Nebraska on Friday, Nov. 23, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers 13-10.

LINCOLN, Neb. — Iowa defensive lineman Ethan Hurkett isn’t a starter on the Hawkeyes’ depth chart this season but has stood out among the rest at the finish of games. More than two months removed from securing the game-sealing tackle in the waning minutes against Iowa State in Ames, Hurkett again delivered in the clutch on the road, this time in Lincoln, Nebraska. 

Amidst a crowd of more than 86,000 fans donned in red, Hurkett found himself on the turf once again in the final two minutes. With 41 seconds to go, the Cornhuskers were set at their own 45-yard line after snagging a Deacon Hill interception. Threatening to get within field goal range and etch its first six-win season since 2015, Nebraska was in full control of its postseason destiny. 

That is until such fate fell into the hands of Hurkett. 

After a three-yard rush to put the Huskers two yards from midfield, quarterback Chubba Purdy took the shotgun snap and looked down the middle of the field, expecting green grass, as Hawkeye linebacker Nick Jackson left his post on a blitz. 

Yet filling Jackson’s void was the Hurkett, as the third-year from Cedar Rapids had lingered away from his usual spot on the edge, taking up residence at the inside linebacker spot in the open field. 

“With a defensive lineman in coverage, we’re not asking for a whole lot,” Iowa linebacker Jay Higgins said of Hurkett. “You kind of want the pressure [from the blit] to help him out. But [Hurkett] has been talking about playing linebacker here for the last four years, and I think he made a pretty good linebacker today.” 

While not a position he’s played during his time in the Black and Gold, the linebacker spot was Hurkett’s old stomping grounds back at Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids, where he was a three-year letterman, racking up 53.5 total tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss in his senior season. 

“It’s a joke that me and [Iowa linebacker] Jay Higgins have,” Hurkett said in his postgame press conference. “I always tell him, ‘If you want to switch, I’ll make [linebacker] and you play five-technique [defensive lineman].’” 

Crediting the zone blitz as a call from Jackson, Hurkett said the movement put him in the ideal position to make the interception, a play that, for Hurkett, felt more like hours than seconds. 

“I was sitting back there in my zone, and I saw the ball get thrown. It was almost like slow motion,” he said. “And fortunately, God allowed me to catch it and run a little bit after.” 

Ensnaring the ball over his head between his two black gloves, Hurkett tucked the pigskin to his side and took off to the right, rumbling for 10 yards before falling out of bounds at the sideline at Nebraska’s 37-yard line. Fifteen seconds and 17 yards later, backup kicker Marshall Meeder nailed a 38-yard field goal to put the Hawkeyes on top, 13-10. 

But Meeder’s heroics wouldn’t be possible without Hurkett’s feat on the defensive side. Being in the position to make such a play was the result of strategy, but also dedication to the process. 

After redshirting his first season in Iowa City in 2020, Hurkett played in the Hawkeyes’ first three games of 2021 before missing the rest of the season due to injury. The following season, Hurkett picked up right where he left off, racking up 15 total tackles and a sack over 13 games. 

In 2023, Hurkett is putting up career-bests in solo tackles, tackle assists, and tackles of loss. While he has yet to start a game in a Hawkeye uniform, Hurkett is still grateful for the progress he has made over the years. 

“Just these guys, they’ve been where the whole time,” Hurkett said of his teammates’ support. “Just these coaches, they’ve allowed me to be patient and trust the process, knowing that one day I’ll be able to come back and hopefully help this team out.” 

Adding that he prays before and during each game, Hurkett said his timely performances are a reward from above. One of the better parts of these gifts is the embrace of his teammates. 

 “Those are my brothers, that’s my family, so to be able to make a big play and then come back and celebrate with these guys. It’s the best part.” 

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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
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
he/him/his
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.