In two weeks, the Iowa Hawkeyes will open the season against Northern Illinois at Soldier Field in Chicago.
As that game ends, about 850 miles to the east, Stony Brook will face Central Connecticut. It is there that former Hawkeye running back Marcus Coker will take the field at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium (capacity of 8,132) for the next chapter in his football life.
“I feel like everything happens for a reason,” Coker said Friday. “I’m one of those kind of people.”
It may feel a little different than opening at an NFL stadium with his eyes on a Big Ten rushing title, but Coker has no regrets.
“I don’t try to live in the past,” Coker said. “I take advantage of the day.”
It didn’t seem possible that Coker wouldn’t be back at Iowa. He ran for 1,384 yards in 12 games last season, the fourth-best season for a Hawkeye in program history.
After a half-season of work as a freshman, Coker already ranked 12th in career rushing at 2,006 yards. One more healthy season would have lifted him up with Sedrick Shaw, Ladell Betts, Albert Young and Tavian Banks.
But Coker was suspended Dec. 20, 2011, and did not play in the Insight Bowl. A few weeks later on Jan. 10, he left Iowa.
Iowa never gave a reason for the suspension beyond a “violation of the UI Student-Athlete Code of Conduct.” It was later revealed Coker was investigated for assault for an incident Oct. 28, 2011. The victim did not want to proceed, and prosecution was never pursued.
When asked Friday if he expected to be reinstated after his suspension, Coker said “I’m sure.”
“(The coaches and I) talked about it,” Coker said. “They said they supported me 100 percent.”
Asked if he was treated fairly in the process, Coker said: “It’s not something I think about. Be better not bitter.”
For Coker, he said the move had more to do with family than any suspension.
“It came down to just being closer to home. That’s the reason it happened,” Coker said. “It was hard for me and my mom being so far from each other.”
Coker said it was difficult during his sophomore season at Iowa to be away from his mom, Tammy Money.
“My mom is like my best friend,” Coker said. “And I have three dogs and two cats back home.
“Now I can go home on the weekend and be with my family and pets, and my mom will come to all the games now.”
In addition to being closer to home, Coker also wanted to play. By transferring to Stony Brook, a FCS program, Coker could play right away.
“I didn’t feel like sitting out a year,” Coker said. “I wanted to get back in the swing of things.”
It helped that the SeaWolves have one of the most potent rushing offenses in the country (they were fourth in FCS at 267.3 rushing yards per game).
Despite his Big Ten résumé, Coker is fighting for carries with the reigning Big South Offensive Player of the Year, senior Miguel Maysonet, who ran for 1,633 yards and 15 touchdown last season.
Maysonet broke both the school and Big South rushing records and finished eighth overall in FCS.
“I just go out there and know you are proven,” Coker said. “It’s like back during my freshman year at Iowa.”
Beyond helping his team win, Coker hasn’t set any goals for the season and doesn’t have a plan beyond this fall. Coker could stay at Stony Brook, transfer to a FBS school or try his luck in the NFL.
“That’s always the goal,” Coker said of playing in the NFL. “It’s just a day-by-day type of thing. If I do that, good things will happen.”
Coker said he isn’t hung up on what he left behind at Iowa. He doesn’t watch much TV, so he might not catch the Hawkeyes this fall, but he still is rooting for the friends he left in Iowa City.
“I wish them all the luck in the world,” Coker said.
He called Iowa running back Jordan Canzeri when the freshman tore his ACL in the spring.
“I told him to keep his head up,” Coker said.
That’s probably good advice all around.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football