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Iowa defensive back Amari Spievey, Friday Aug. 7, 2009, during media day activities in Iowa City . (John Schultz / Quad-City Times) John Schultz

It's not the way sketch artist Amari Spievey would have drawn up his Iowa Hawkeyes football career.

It yet could end up a masterpiece, nonetheless.

The junior cornerback from Middleton, Conn., will start his second Iowa season as a preseason all-Big Ten first-team pick and on the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award presented annually to the best defensive back in college football.

"Amari is another one of those great stories," said Kirk Ferentz, the Iowa coach who left Spievey feeling like his story - his life - was over when he bounced the young man from the Iowa program three falls back.

The redshirt freshman had failed to tend to business in the classroom, and was dispatched to Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge without a guarantee of being welcomed back to the Hawkeyes.

"I thought my dreams were over," Spievey said. "Outside of football, I don't really see anything ... Well, I see stuff for me. But that was my life at the time. I needed to come back. I love football."

Spievey's story now is comparable to that of Shonn Greene, the standout running back who took care of business during a semester away at junior college and then last year ran his way into an early NFL Draft call.

"Me and Shonn both got kicked out the same year, and we kept in touch every day to make sure we were on top of our game to get back here," Spievey said. "We rooted each other on and reminded each other this (was) our second chance."

Greene went to Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids and didn't play football. Spievey had a dominating junior college campaign, winning all-American honors with seven interceptions, two of which he took back for touchdowns, in addition to a pair of kickoff returns for TDs.

More importantly, he got the job done in school.

"I wasn't focused," he said of his first semester at Iowa. "I was very immature, but, you know, going away was a big wake-up call for me."

That's what Ferentz was looking for via a dose of tough love that included no promise of a waiting scholarship for the former Connecticut high school player of the year.

"We wanted to make sure he was going to be really serious about getting his education," Ferentz said. "There wasn't any reason we didn't think that would happen. But sometimes you have to do things with a sense of urgency. He was really lost that first year."

And then he was found.

Spievey's return to the Hawkeyes' last fall didn't earn as much notice as that of Greene, but he did win second-team all-league notice from Big Ten coaches with a four-interception, 68-tackle season.

More importantly, perhaps, his own coaches noticed. Spievey won the Coaches Appreciation Award on defense and last spring, far-from-effusive defensive coordinator Norm Parker declared Spievey could be the best cornerback he has coached at Iowa.

That's better than Bradley Fletcher, a third-round draft pick right behind Greene in April. Better than Charles Godfrey, an NFL third-rounder the year before.

Three months later, Parker didn't quite backpedal like a DB, but he softened his praise on Iowa media day on Aug. 7.

"He could be a good player," the crusty defensive coach said. "Could be and should be and is are different things. I think the ball is in his court."

If that's another stab at tough-love motivation, it is not necessary.

Spievey was spurred by Parker's high April praise.

"It makes me want to make sure his words are true," said the 6-foot, 190-pound corner. "I want to make sure he continues to have faith in me."

Off the field, Spievey, an aspiring artist, also is keeping faith with himself.

"I was a good student before I came here," he said. "Being away from home, I thought I knew the ropes but I didn't. I want to get back to that. Do what I have to do to be a man."

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