IOWA CITY — Desmond King arrived at Iowa ready to work, prepared to put everything he had into every single day.
Four years later, things haven’t changed.
King’s work ethic and his versatility will likely make him the first Hawkeye to be selected in this year’s NFL draft, most frequently projected as a second- or third-round choice in the three-day draft, which begins Thursday.
He thrived as a cornerback at Iowa, but could start his career at the next level as a safety and the 2016 Jim Thorpe Award winner is willing to continue returning kicks and punts as well, building on a role he filled last season for Iowa.
“I’m ready to put everything I have into this. That’s the way I’ve always approached things,’’ King said.
That’s one reason King was unsure what was more painful, the abdominal strain he was dealing with at the time of the NFL Combine or the fact that the injury prevented him from running the 40-yard dash there.
“That was the smart thing to do, but it wasn’t easy,'' King said. "I’ve always been a guy who is ready to go every day. That’s just who I am. I was able to get that done later, but I’ve always put everything I have into whatever I take on.’’
NFL teams have noticed.
They’ve noticed that the all-American, who moved into the Iowa lineup one game into his college career, earned a college degree in 3 1/2 years.
No Hawkeye has started more than the 51 games King started and only three Iowa players have intercepted more than the 14 passes King snared during the 53 games in which he played.
“I don’t ever recall him missing a practice and the effort you see on game day, that’s the effort he puts out on the practice field every single day,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s made the most of every minute he’s been on campus and that has shown in his performance on the field and in the classroom.’’
King has fielded questions from NFL coaches and scouts about how he has been able to get it all done.
“It has come up, and it is something I’m proud of,’’ King said. “I committed myself to getting it done and that’s just the way I was raised. When you make a commitment, you see it through.’’
He accomplished that on special teams last season, the byproduct of desire to expand the ways he was able to help the Hawkeyes.
The Detroit native ranked fifth in the Big Ten in kickoff returns with an average of 27.8 yards per return and was ninth in the league in punt returns at 10.2 yards per attempt.
“That’s always a topic when I’ve been talking with teams and it’s something I’m willing to do,’’ King said. “They seem to like that I can do a number of things. Some see me as a corner. Some tell me they think safety is where my future is. I’m willing to go wherever they want to put me and I’ll give it 110 percent. That won’t change.’’
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay isn’t among those who believe King will ultimately end up at safety in the NFL. He considers him to be a cornerback and expects his productivity level to remain high.
“In my opinion, ball skills transfer. They transfer to the NFL and playmakers in college continue to be playmakers at the next level,’’ McShay said. “You see it time and time again. To me, Desmond has very good ball skills and is one of those playmakers who can step up.’’
King counts on that.
“I just want to compete. That has always been my thing. In practice, in games, I enjoy going out and competing and giving it everything I have,’’ he said. “I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to play a game I love and I don’t take that for granted. I’m excited to see where the road leads me.’’
As part of what is considered to be the deepest group of draft-eligible defensive backs in a decade, King plans to use a trait that served him well throughout his Iowa career once NFL teams begin the selection process on Thursday: Patience.
“When you’re at cornerback, you need a lot of patience to put yourself in a position to make plays, understanding when to make it happen,’’ King said. “As excited as I am about the future, I know it will take some patience to get through the process.’’
And that doesn’t bother King at all.
“It’s like when you see something develop on the field and you wait to go get it,’’ King said. “You wait because you know that the end result is going to be so good.’’