AMES — Iowa State’s third-leading tackler is nicknamed “Pig.”
And that’s only the tip of the porcine-based plethora of monickers for Cyclone strong safety Durrell Givens, who has sniffed out a 14 tackles in wins over Tulsa and Iowa.
“When I was born, I was a fat baby,” explained the now svelte, but chiseled 6-0, 210-pound senior from Long Beach, Calif. “My mom used to call me her fat old piggo and pig just stuck. So people call me pig, or any other pig-related product like bacon, oink oink, pork, pork chop, all those. Swine, I like swine.”
Givens — whose team faces Western Illinois in Saturday’s Cyclone.tv-streamed 7 p.m. game at Jack Trice Stadium — also enjoys hitting.
It’s not a life-long love affair.
His redshirt season in 2010 hastened a hankering for hard knocks.
“Actually it’s kind of a funny story with my tackling,” said Givens, a junior college transfer recruited by former ISU secondary coach Chris Ash. “Coach (Paul) Rhoads, after practice, he used to make us do tacking drills. It was me and I think (safety) C.J. (Morgan) was over there, (and linebacker) Jeremiah (George). I didn’t like hitting that much — I used to make tackles, but it became a routine. Now hitting is just a part of me. It’s not a task to do.”
Pig finished off one of the touchstone defensive plays of the young season.
With the Cyclones trailing Tulsa 16-7 with 14:03 left in the second quarter, linebacker Jake Knott forced a fumble.
Pig pounced on it.
ISU’s offense scored the game’s next 24 points.
“Our motto on defense is ‘swarm and punish,’” said Givens, who also made in interception against Tulsa. “So when you swarm, you get rewarded sometimes.”
Simply put, Pig makes plays.
“(As) our strong safety, we’re going to bring him into the box a lot,” Knott said. “And he accepts the contact and wants to go deliver it.”
The Cyclones lost current pros Leonard Johnson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Ter’Ran Benton (Iowa Barnstormers) from last year’s team that ranked 46th nationally in pass efficiency defense.
This year’s group featuring Givens, returning starters Jacques Washington and Jeremy Reeves, and new starter Jansen Watson, is on track for equal of better results.
It’s early, but ISU checks in at No. 12 in the nation in that category in 2012.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” said first-year secondary coach Troy Douglas. “We’ve got 12 games and hopefully a bowl game, so we’ve got 10-11 more games. They’ve just got to continue to get better. They’ve done fine so far, but a lot of football left to play.”
“You’ve just got to stay hungry,” he said. “You can’t take your foot off the gas.”
WALLY’S WAGER: Linebacker Jake Knott’s Mohawk pre-Iowa bet with defensive coordinator Wally Burnham proved to be legit.
The proposition: If the Cyclone defense held the Hawkeyes scoreless, Burnham would get a Mohawk (Knott already sports one).
Burnham eschewed the shears because ISU won the game 9-6.
“Best of both worlds for him,” Knott said, smiling, after the game.
Would Burnham really have done it?
“Yeah,” the veteran coach said, laughing. “I gave him my word. It would have been worth it.”
KNOTT NOTICED: Knott received his second Big 12 defensive player of the week honor after making the game-sealing interception against Iowa.
“A big-time play,” Rhoads said Monday.
FIRE UP THE INTERNETS: ISU’s game at 7 p.m. Saturday against Western Illinois will only be available at Cyclones.tv. For packages and pricing info, log on to Cyclones.com and click the Cyclones.tv tab.