By Todd Brommelkamp/KGYM Radio
TAMPA – “Nick, look over here!”
“Hold the trophy up, Nick!”
“Look this way and hold the trophy up, Nick!”
Iowa wide receiver Nick Easley grinned sheepishly as he tried to comply with the demands of overbearing media members.
Outback Bowl Most Valuable Player Nick Easley grinned sheepishly as he tried to comply with the demands of overbearing media members.
The senior from Newton was an easy choice for the postgame accolade after securing a game-high eight catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns in Iowa’s 27-22 win over Mississippi State Tuesday.
It was a storybook ending to a Cinderella career that saw Easley go from a Division II punting prospect to a Junior College wide receiver to a walk-on in Iowa City.
Fittingly, just like the Disney princess’s tale, a wardrobe malfunction played a key role in the final chapter of Easley’s story.
Make that a near wardrobe malfunction.
With Iowa trailing 6-3 in the second quarter, Easley took a pass from quarterback Nate Stanley 75 yards into the end zone for the first of his two scores. Replays showed Easley fighting to keep his helmet from popping off, which would have resulted in the play being blown dead at the spot.
“A little piece (of my helmet strap) broke the play before,” Easley said. “When I was running it started coming off a little bit. Thankfully I was able to pull it back on and continue to run.”
Easley kept his head and what was on it and the rest is history. Literally. The catch was the longest of Easley’s career and also a new Iowa bowl record.
He added an 8-yard touchdown reception from Stanley near the end of the third quarter that gave Iowa a 24-19 lead.
It was also his 100th career catch, something he was unaware of at the time.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz appeared to get emotion when reflecting on Easley’s recruitment prior to his introduction as the game’s MVP. Coincidentally enough, Ferentz was in Tampa at the 2017 Outback Bowl the first time he made contact with the receiver. He was alerted to his existence by son-in-law Tyler Barnes, who convinced Ferentz to reach out and make contact.
“I asked him if he was interested in being a Hawkeye,” Ferentz recalled, choking back a tear. “He was headed to another school at that point and I’m really glad he kept an open mind and gave us an opportunity to talk to him a little bit and visit and came and joined our program.”
That “other school” was Iowa State, where he also would have started life as a walk-on.
“Being a part of this program, being an Iowa Hawkeye is the best decision I ever made,” Easley said.