B.J. Lowery came to Iowa because he impressed a rival coach. Before leaving the Hawkeyes, he wants to make a similar impression on his young teammates.
After playing understudy to Hawkeyes standout cornerbacks Shaun Prater and Micah Hyde, Lowery understands and embraces the role he now occupies for the secondary.
"My role this year on the defense is going to be major," Lowery told ESPN.com this week. "I'm about to be a senior, so I have to lead by example. I know all the younger guys are going to be following me, good and bad, no matter what I do. They're going to remember me."
Lowery hopes he's remembered fondly as Iowa tries to rebound from a 4-8 season. After starting nine games opposite Hyde at cornerback last fall, Lowery established himself as the team's top cover corner this spring, a player capable of continuing a nice run of Iowa cornerbacks that includes Hyde (Big Ten defensive back of the year in 2012, fifth-round pick in April's NFL draft); Prater (first-team All-Big Ten, fifth-round pick in 2012 draft) and Amari Spievey (first-team All-Big Ten, third-round pick in 2010 draft).
The 5-foot-11, 193-pound Lowery recorded 50 tackles, including one for loss, along with an interception and three pass breakups. We named him Iowa's most indispensable defender, and he stood out during spring ball, including Iowa's spring game.
Lowery admits he struggled at the start of the 2012 season with some of Iowa's coverage concepts. But he made strides in the second half, recording a career-high nine tackles against Nebraska in the season finale. He has equal comfort with playing man and zone and has spent much of the offseason studying film with younger cornerbacks like freshman Malik Rucker.
"I'm not really a vocal guy," he said. "I pretty much lead by example, so if guys follow my lead, hopefully we'll be alright. I want to set a good example for those young guys coming in, so everything I’m doing, I’m looking over my shoulder to see who's watching."
Fortunately for Lowery, Doc Gamble was watching as he began to blossom for Hughes High School in Cincinnati. Back then, Gamble coached Withrow High, Hughes' top rival.
He took notice of Lowery, an all-conference defensive back as a sophomore and a junior, and contacted Phil Parker, then Iowa's secondary coach and now the team's defensive coordinator.
"That kind of changed everything for me," said Lowery, who had received an offer from Akron but not much interest from major-conference schools. "[Gamble] gave Coach Parker my film and told him to come down to my school. And before you knew it, Coach Parker came down and we talked and that's how the recruiting process began."
Lowery stays in touch with Gamble, now an assistant at Kent State, and often sees him at semi-pro games back home in Cincy.
"We used to go at it every year, my high school and his high school, so I guess I did somehow, I impacted him, and he reached out and helped me out."
Lowery also received help from Prater and Hyde, who exuded confidence and instilled it in others. Lowery wants to follow their lead this fall as he mentors younger cornerbacks like Rucker, junior Jordan Lomax, sophomore Sean Draper and redshirt freshman Maurice Fleming.
Lomax and Draper are competing to start opposite Lowery.
"I want to be a role model for the younger guys," Lowery said. "I want to be productive and let the team do what we plan to do this year, which is win."