Say the name Nico Law around an Iowa football fan and chances are you’ll get a rousing response.
You might even get a comparison to the great Bob Sanders, even though Law has yet to start a game for the Hawkeyes and only has 11 tackles to his credit.
So how’s that for pressure?
“I don’t compare myself to him, so there is no pressure on me,” Law said of Sanders, a former all-America strong safety at Iowa and the 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year while a member of the Indianapolis Colts. “He was a great player and I like that people compare me to him, but I want to build my own legacy.”
Law took a significant step toward building his own legacy by emerging as the starter at strong safety during spring practice. He played mostly on special teams as a true freshman last season and showed a knack for making big hits that were reminiscent of Sanders, who played at Iowa from 2000-03.
“I’m very physical and aggressive, and I’m a fast player,” Law said.
Law also is a confident player but not to the point of being cocky, his position coach said.
“We’re going to make sure he doesn’t get like that,” Iowa defensive backs coach Darrell Wilson. “He’s a good young man. He understands.
“Nico wants to work. He wants to learn. He’s been here all summer, and he just watches film constantly. Now when there’s free time, he’s watching film.”
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Law is filling the position vacated by Jordan Bernstine, who started the final 11 games at strong safety last season and now is competing for a roster spot with the Washington Redskins.
Junior Tanner Miller returns at free safety, where he started the final 11 games last season.
He and Law still are getting used to each other on and off the field, but Miller is well aware of the hype surrounding his new partner at safety.
“He’s a real physical type of safety,” Miller said of Law, who had more than a dozen scholarship offers from BCS schools coming out of high school. “Everybody kind of compares him to Bob Sanders. He’s working hard, and he’s starting to get the system down and being able to be back there with confidence and knowing what the system is and how we play.
“And I think throughout this camp this is going to be the big scene just getting him the constant reps. It’s going to be huge for him, and I think he’s going to be a great player for us.”
Miller isn’t worried about the hype going to Law’s head because the players and coaches won’t allow it to happen.
“That’s what all of us are here for, just to kind of channel that,” Miller said. “We’re going to keep that in check, and we’re going to keep telling him that you can always get better.
“I think he understands that. I’m actually living with him now during camp, and we have a lot of good talks. I think he’s starting to get it and that light will click, and I think he’s going to be a great player.”
Miller, who is from Kalona, had little in common with Law until they became college teammates. Law is a native of Clinton, Md., and is among four players from Maryland on the 2012 Iowa roster.
“You never know what different backgrounds each kid is from, and that’s the neat thing about it; you get to know and find some of your best friends,” Miller said. “You might not have anything in common with them coming in, but you kind of grow together and you become best friends.
“That’s what a free and a strong safety need to do. And that’s kind of what we’re working towards.”
Law could’ve stayed closer to home for college, with schools such as Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Louisville, Rutgers and North Carolina State offering him a scholarship.
But he just felt better about Iowa and was willing to take a chance on being a Hawkeye despite having to move halfway across the country, a distance that Law said takes about 15 hours to travel by car.
“It was a tough decision,” said Law, whose given name is Nicholas. “Coming from the East Coast to the Midwest was very difficult. “But I adjusted and I’m here.”
Law said he knew very little about the University of Iowa and even less about the state of Iowa when he started considering being a Hawkeye.
“I thought I was going to a cornfield,” Law said. “I was pretty scared. But when I got here, I adjusted.”
Wilson was one of Law’s primary recruiters, and he also grew up on the East Coast as a New Jersey native. Wilson understands the difficulty in moving to a different part of the country.
“You kind of get a feel for the young man when you recruit him,” Wilson said. “You know who can make that adjustment and who can’t.
“It’s always a coin toss.”
Law said the adjustment on the field from high school has challenged him more mentally than physically because the game is far more complicated at the collegiate level.
“You’ve got to know what you’re doing,” Law said. “In high school, you basically make plays off of ability. In college, I feel as though you have to make plays off of knowledge.”
LC: B.J. Lowery, 5-11, 188, jr., he appeared in the final eight games last season after returning from an injury and recorded 10 solo tackles and three pass break-ups, including one against Michigan on the last play of the game in the Iowa end zone.
SS: Nico Law, 6-1, 195, so., saw action in all 13 games last season and was a key contributor on special teams.
FS: Tanner Miller, 6-2, 201, jr., tied for eighth in the Big Ten last season with three interceptions, including one that he returned for a school-record 98-yard touchdown.
RC: Micah Hyde, 6-1, 190, sr., has started 26 consecutive games, including the first two games last season at free safety before switching back to cornerback; made second-team all-Big Ten last season.
LC: Torrey Campbell, 5-11, 185, rs fr., one of the fastest players on the team also competes as a hurdler for the Iowa track team.
SS: Tom Donatell, 6-2, 205, sr., Came to Iowa as a walk-on quarterback then switched to linebacker before moving to the secondary; started two games at outside linebacker last season.
FS: John Lowdermilk, 6-2, 203, so., saw action in 11 games last season, mostly on special teams.
RC: Greg Castillo, 5-11, 187, sr., has started at least one game in each of his first three seasons at Iowa.
VIDEO: Iowa defensive backs coach Darrell Wilson talks about the secondary at Media Day.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football