Brown: Being Reminded Not to Bet Against Nick Easley

July 10, 2020

Written by Rick Brown

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – I was checking in golfers at Cooper Creek Golf Club in Pleasant Hill early Wednesday evening.

It was a scorcher of a day, with a triple-digit heat index. The last golfer walked in shortly after 6 p.m. to pay his greens fee.

I recognized him. In fact, I had written several stories about him during his Iowa football career. And I proceeded to call him by the wrong first name.

“Hi, Matt,” I said.

“That’s my brother,” he replied with a smile on his face. “I’m Nick.”

I apologized. And apologized again. Don’t worry about it, he said. Again, with a smile on his face.

“It happens all the time,” he said.

And that’s how my first face-to-face conversation since 2018 went with former Iowa wide receiver Nick Easley. His older brother, Matt, did some placekicking for Northern Iowa.

It wasn’t the first time I had called Nick by his brother’s name. I hope it’s the last.

I told Nick I still don’t know how he kept his helmet on during his 75-yard catch and touchdown run against Mississippi State in the 2019 Outback Bowl.

Continue reading below

Related In HawkeyeNation Forums

I told him what a standup guy he was for offering a hand of support to Kaden Kelso of Newton when Kaden was fighting cancer. Nick is also from Newton.

Heading into his second season with the Buffalo Bills – he was on the practice squad last season – we talked briefly about what a strange time it’s been for athletics in the COVID-19 era.

As he headed out the door to meet his buddies and tee it up, I apologized again for botching his first name.

“No problem,” he said.

After he left, I thought about Easley’s storybrook career.  A made-for-TV movie waiting to happen.

Continue reading below

This is a guy who had one offer, from Division II Missouri Western as a punter, after a record-setting career as a receiver at Newton High School.

Easley spent two seasons as a wide receiver at Iowa Western of Council Bluffs, earning NJCAA all-American honors as a sophomore after racking up 954 receiving yards.

Iowa, his dream school, offered him a chance to walk on. Easley knew that walk-ons had traditionally received a fair shake under Coach Kirk Ferentz, and decided to give it a go.

Easley opened some eyes during fall practice in 2017. And he got his chance when the Hawkeyes opened the season with a 24-3 victory against Wyoming. Ferentz, had been impressed with what Easley had done in practice, but wasn’t sure how he would respond in front of a real Kinnick crowd.

Continue reading below

The answer was this: A team-high four catches for 77 yards, including a 19-yard reception on Iowa’s first scoring drive of the season and a 45-yard touchdown catch to make it 21-3. That 19-yard reception was Nate Stanley’s first completion as Iowa’s starting quarterback.

“He’s a guy (Easley) who’s just worked hard in practice,” Ferentz said after the game. “We’ve been encouraged with him. We hadn’t seen him play in a game, at least in Kinnick. You can say that about a lot of guys on our team right now. Last night I was a little bit anxious. Anxious about what I did know. Some things you don’t know. But what you do know can keep you up at night. To see him respond like that, that’s got to do a lot for his confidence.”

A team in dire need of a dependable wide receiver had found one. Easley led the Hawkeyes in receptions in both 2017 (51) and 2018 (52). He finished with 1,024 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He also had 10 catches against Northern Iowa – yes, Matt’s old school – in 2018.

And his college career ended in dream fashion for his dream school.  Easley was named the most valuable player of the 2019 Outback Bowl after making eight receptions for a career-best 103 yards and two touchdowns in the Hawkeyes’ 27-22 victory.

Easley signed a free-agent deal with Buffalo on May 10, 2019. He made a name for himself in training camp, but was eventually released on August 31. Then the Bills resigned him on Oct. 1, and he spent the rest of the season on the practice squad. He signed a new deal on Jan. 6 of this year.

The odds of making an NFL roster are staggering, especially for a former college walk-on. But I would never bet against Easley.

Nick Easley.

HawkeyeNation Archives View All >

Hawkeye Nation

Howe: What Now after Big Ten Bombshell?

Rob Howe

August 11, 2020

What’s done is done. Time to look ahead with hope.

Hawkeye Nation

Iowa Officials React to Big Ten Decision

Rob Howe

August 11, 2020

Bruce Harreld, Gary Barta, Kirk Ferentz discuss Tuesday’s news.

Hawkeye Nation

B1G Makes It Official: ‘20 Fall Sports Cancelled

Rob Howe

August 11, 2020

Conference cites COVID-19 health concerns as reason for shutting down.

Hawkeye Nation

Report: Big Ten Canceling 2020 Football Season

Rob Howe

August 10, 2020

Detroit Free Press story says conference decision stems from COVID-19 fears.

Hawkeye Nation

With Fall Football Looking Less Likely, Hawkeyes Voice Desire to Play

Rob Howe

August 9, 2020

Iowa student-athletes speaking up in national player movement to save season.

Hawkeye Nation

Schwartz: Ten Sentences – Smelling Like Spring Edition

David Schwartz

August 9, 2020

College football in the fall looking less likely by the day.

Hawkeye Nation

Howe: Game-By-Game Predictions for Iowa Football ’20

Rob Howe

August 7, 2020

Prediction on how the Hawkeyes will fare with unusual schedule.

Hawkeye Nation

UI Athletics Announces Updates to Football Tickets, Game Day Procedures

Athletic Communications

August 6, 2020

Where things stands with season less than a month away.

TOP