Hawkeye WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette Focused on Football, Not Phone

August 16, 2018

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The message sent by Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz to receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette through the media this spring was delivered somewhat tongue in cheek. Somewhat.

Ferentz called for the first-year player to put down his phone and focus on football. Receivers coach Kelton Copeland followed up his boss’ request by asking people to ask Smith-Marsette to put down his device if they saw him in public.

Smith-Marsette couldn’t respond publicly. True freshmen are off limits to the media.

He broke his silence on the topic at last week’s team media day.

“It’s a joke. We and coach Ferentz joke around all the time. I know it was a joke and he just said it to mess with me. It was definitely a joke,” he said.

Smith-Marsette said the head coach told him he was kidding. But there also was some psychological motivation at work from the dean of FBS coaches.

“When the head coach says something, I don’t care who you are, you’re going to listen. That made some shock waves when coach Ferentz told Ihmir Smith-Masette to put down his phone down. That caught his attention,” Copeland said.

Ferentz and Copeland are trying to draw the best out of the speedy receiver. Smith-Marsette’s ability to stretch the field could be the key to unlocking the potential of this offense.

And, let’s face it, most of us are on our phone too much.

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“It’s not just him. These kids live through their devices, everything from their calendar to social media to the alarm clock to music, everything,” Copeland said.

Ferentz’s comments reached back to Smith-Marsette’s home in New Jersey.

“I heard from my grandma. She was the first one to tell me to get off my phone. I tried to tell her it was a joke but she’s kind of old school. She doesn’t want to hear about any jokes,” he said.

Smith-Marsette is close to his family but the relationship with his grandmother is special. She stays on him.

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“My grandmother always texts me and tells me to stay focused. That’s my heart right there. Being so far away from me, I just take in everything that she tells me and just listen to her,” he said.

Copeland has noticed a heightened focus from his fastest receiver. Smith-Marsette came to Iowa at 159 pounds and played at around that weight as a true freshman last season, when he caught 18 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. His two scores at Iowa State, including one in overtime, proved huge in the overtime victory.

He’s added 18 pounds this offseason. With the increased strength has come more speed.

“He looks a lot more like a college football player and that carries over to the field. To think that he’s going to be stronger and faster is a really good thing for us. The future is really bright for Ihmir,” Copeland said.

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Said Smith-Marsette: “It’s definitely helping me get up to defenders and not allowing them to press me down the field. It’s allowing me to block. And I actually feel faster. It’s not fat. It’s strength. We do a lot of explosion work. I definitely feel like I’m gaining a step.”

Smith-Marsette experienced ups and downs in his first college season. He delivered some big plays but also left more than he would have liked on the field. He’s worked to be better.

“I just want to be more consistent with my confidence. Last year, I lacked confidence in certain areas. Being more confident will help me take advantage of my speed,” he said.

Smith-Marsette is much more comfortable with the play book than he was at this time a year ago. He’s digging in and learning assignments for all positions, not just the receivers. He watches a lot of film.

With all that on his plate, he’s finding more time to put down his phone.

“Whenever it comes to football, I’m always locked in. I’m always trying to learn new things. I’m definitely locked in all the time when it comes to football,” he said.

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