IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A year ago, his was one of 21 expressionless headshots on hawkeyesports.com's Signing Day Central page.
Defensive back Desmond King from Detroit was essentially faceless to University of Iowa football fans, but that changed six months later when he burst into the starting lineup. Originally, like the 19 future Hawkeyes that will sign National Letters of Intent today, King was known only by name, the lofty statistics he compiled playing in high school, and by the number of stars a recruiting analyst decided he was worth.
King's path to selecting a college has similarities to his college playing career. As a junior in high school, he received a scholarship offer from Wisconsin. Wanting to stay close to home, King shunned the Big Ten Conference and committed to Central Michigan. But he knew players at Ball State, visited there, switched his commitment to the Cardinals, and closed the door on recruiters while he focused on his final season of high school football.
After picking off a record-setting 29th pass, rushing for thousands of yards and a cluster of touchdowns, King's high school playing days ended.
Enter UI defensive coordinator Phil Parker, who reached out in January, weeks before signing day. King and Hawkeye defensive back Ruben Lile had been friends for years. That, along with the instant relationship he formed with Parker, led to a shift to becoming a Hawkeye.
"I wanted to explore new things and I thought Iowa would be a good place for me," King said.
As a player, King was shell-shocked in the opener against Northern Illinois. He allowed a touchdown in week two, his first game as a starter.
"That was a lesson learned," he said.
But by the end of his freshman season, at the end of his first bowl game Jan. 1, 2014, he was receiving praise from Louisiana State University receivers Odell Beckham, Jr., and Jarvis Landry.
"I have improved at being patient," King said. "Now I'm waiting for my opportunities and a chance to make a play."
Patience on the field is paying off, just like his patience in selecting a college.
King finished sixth among all Hawkeye defenders with 69 tackles (fourth with 44 solo stops). He was second on the team with eight pass breakups, and he recovered two fumbles.
"I want to improve on my freshman year, contribute more to the team, help others," King said. "I want to become one of the helpful players on the team -- a captain at a young age in my career."
It won't be long until King can begin mentoring the newest Hawkeye signees, a collection that includes an acquaintance from a rival high school in Detroit. If their Signing Day is anything like what King experienced, it will go something like this:
Arrive for a ceremony at the high school...sign and fax the Letter of Intent to the Hayden Fry Football Complex...receive a call from head coach Kirk Ferentz, and try to hear your future coach's voice as classmates cheer in the background.
"It was a great experience," King said.
King said attending the UI was an opportunity for him to settle down and focus on the "right things we can have in life."
And his first year in Iowa City has been even more fulfilling than he thought it would be.
"I didn't know I would create friendships so fast," he said. "I have already built great relationships with a lot of players on the team."