IOWA CITY — When Nico Law first heard the news, all he could do was shake his head.
“I was surprised,’’ Iowa’s sophomore defensive back admitted. “Very surprised.’’
Teammates Jordan Lomax and Darian Cooper went one step beyond that. Cooper admitted to doing one of these deep, deep double takes. Lomax classified the news as “shocking.’’
The news, which arrived last December, was that the University of Maryland was leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference and joining the Big Ten. It’s something that Law, Lomax and Cooper — all of whom are from Maryland —never even had considered as a possibility.
“It’s very crazy,’’ said Lomax, who like Law has a chance to become a starter in the Hawkeye secondary this fall. “But it gives me a chance to go back home and play at home next year.
“People are already hitting me up this year, saying ‘Can I get a ticket?’ I didn’t even know Maryland was on our schedule yet. I didn’t know what they were talking about. So I had to go online and make sure. It was like ‘Wow, we are playing there.’’’
The date Oct. 18, 2014, already is circled on at least three calendars in the Iowa football program.
“I know a lot of guys on the Maryland team so it will be a good opportunity to go against a lot of guys I knew in high school,’’ said Cooper, a sophomore currently listed as a backup defensive tackle on the Iowa depth chart.
Like Lomax, he knows he’s going to be scrounging for as many tickets as he can find.
“I already have it in mind,’’ Cooper added. “It’s going to be a nice little homecoming.’’
None of the three players looked very hard at attending the home state university when they were coming out of high school in 2011, largely because Maryland was in the midst of a somewhat controversial coaching change. All of them had offers from the Terrapins. None of them took an official visit there.
Lomax and Cooper played at DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, about two miles down Baltimore Avenue from the Maryland campus, but they never gave it much consideration. Lomax actually committed to Virginia before Law convinced him that Iowa was the place to be.
All of them said they doubt it would have made any difference if Maryland had been in the Big Ten back then.
Iowa running backs coach Chris White, who recruits Maryland and the rest of the east coast for the Hawkeyes, figures being in the Big Ten will help Maryland recruit in the future.
However, he also thinks it could help schools such as Iowa to dip even further into the Maryland talent pool.
“I think it helps us because the kids get to play against Maryland and Rutgers (also joining the Big Ten next year) and it gives them a familiarity,’’ White said. “Plus, there are TV sets there. The parents at home get to see the kids play. I think it will be a big help.’’
He said that for whatever reason, players from the large urban centers of the east are eager to check out other parts of the country.
“I think Maryland kids are open to opportunities wherever they can find them and playing in the Big Ten is an attractive thing,’’ White said.
“I think east coast kids like to explore things … We’re just happy that they’re willing to come out here and play Big Ten football.’’
But they’re also going to be very happy and very eager to go back home for one special Saturday to show what they can do.
“I’ve got to bring my A game,’’ Law said.