There might not be a better story in Iowa's class than Greg Garmon.
Forget the fact that Iowa needs a running back to come through in this class like the Hawkeyes need helmets to work. The 6-2, 195-pounder from Erie, Pa., has seen some . . . stuff.
There's an excellent profile on Garmon at Sports Illustrated. Here's the link.
His family's home burned down when he was in the sixth grade. He lived with a friend's family for a year while the rest of his family lived in a hotel.
And then his world was really shaken.
For more than a year, Garmon complained of a severe pain in his left hip. Doctors called it "growing pains", dismissing it as a nonissue. But after a series of medical tests, Garmon's mother received a phone call. On a November afternoon, hovering outside his her bedroom, Garmon heard her voice tremble: He had non-Hodgkin Lymphoma of the bone.
Six months after his diagnosis, however, in May of eighth grade, Garmon was told he was cancer-free. He settled into summer and looked forward to playing football. He didn't compete in middle school, so freshman football presented the best chance to regain his former lifestyle. Taking the field in August, he was unsure of what toll the chemotherapy would have on his body.
"The first time I got hit, my whole body was tingling," he said. "I remember being unsure what happened, what was going on exactly. I didn't remember football being like this."
"I won't say that it is a good thing to go through cancer or to lose your house all in a couple years time, but it helped shape me into who I am," he said. "And it will shape me in the future."
Again, if there's another player where you maybe lay down your skepti-cyni, it's for Greg Garmon, who rushed for 2,859 yards and 27 touchdowns in three varsity seasons at Erie McDowell High School.
From ESPN.com: Garmon is an intriguing prospect to evaluate; a difference-maker at the high school level playing running back but may get recruited more as an athlete. Has a tall, well-built frame but still lean with a narrow base. Flashes great speed, can get the corner, but it is more of straight-line back. Lacks natural skill-set and smooth lateral agility at the position and is more of a one-cut and get North back.
While not overly fluid as a runner, he shows good vision, cutback and change-of-direction skill. Productive stretching the ball off-tackle and slicing back inside or across the field in a lot of runs he will not be able to get away with at the major college level. Shows very good burst and acceleration out of his downhill cuts. Squares up and reaches top speed quickly and can be a load for smaller DB's to come up and tackle. Strength is all through his upper-body and he is very difficult to try and arm-tackle high, particularly when he gains steam through the second level. Balance on contact is good. Will get low through traffic. Elusive in the open field with his ability to stop-start, jump-cut and break tackles. This is a determined back who looks to score on every run and is a finisher. However, he does lack great lower-body power and leg drive. Runs a bit high and could have difficulty breaking first contact consistently in college until he builds a stronger lower base and runs more behind his pads.
Hands are good and he has the frame to develop into a solid blocker making us believe that Garmon has every-down potential in college but will likely start off as a platoon or multi-purpose back until he builds more size and polishes up his skill-set. A big-play threat and potential underrated runner who may get recruited at safety or even an H-back type position with his good blend of size, speed and ball skills. Could add value immediately on special teams as a returner.
From Josh Helmholdt, Rival.com's midwest recruiting analyst: Garmon is a little bit of a change of pace. He’s listed as a bigger kid, but I thought he was more of a sprint-type running back, more of a guy who lines up next to the quarterback in the shotgun. You can flex him out in the slot, too. He almost looks like a wide receiver, because he’s a little bit tall and lanky.
What Iowa coaches said
Head coach Kirk Ferentz: He's an explosive running back, really elusive. Many of you are familiar with his history, his life history. He's been through some trials and tribulations health-wise, and otherwise. He's weathered those things in tremendous fashion. He's got a tremendous demeanor and outlook and attitude. He's a very positive young man, very talented young man.
We're fortunate, I think that we haven't had much luck in the state of Pennsylvania overall, but Erie, Pennsylvania has been really good to us. We are thrilled to get him on the team. He's playing in his eighth All-Star Game today. He's got a game at 6:00 tonight, as I understand it. So he's certainly a champion playing in All-Star Games. But just a delightful young guy, and the other three players that we've had from Erie, that would be fantastic. So we'll keep our fingers crossed.We're really excited about getting Greg here and looking forward to getting him on the team.
Recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson: He's definitely a running back for us. He's got that shiftiness to him. He's got good speed. We have a ton of connections in Erie and everyone can't say enough good things about him. He was a guy we offered early, early on. He can do a lot of things on special teams. Very good running back. He was a guy we felt very comfortable with. He helps shore up a position that we need shoring up.
What I think
This game won't break Garmon. Life has already tried and failed.
I think if Iowa could afford to redshirt a running back, Garmon would be the one. Build his body for a season and then bring fresh legs into the mix in 2013. That isn't happening. Garmon needs to be ready to play because he's going to.
Freshmen rarely earn time on kick return, but Garmon's skills could translate there. Iowa is in need. And hey, remember Iowa just got done playing Jordan Canzeri and all 172 of his pounds in the Insight Bowl. So, if Garmon comes in closer to 185 than 195, there is precedent (Brandon Wegher, too) for an undersized running back.
Garmon plays. The redshirt would be optimum, but Garmon might be ready as is and Iowa needs him to be ready no matter what.