CHICAGO — Desmond King was just getting settled into his hotel room at his first B1G Media Days.

He could’ve easily been prepping for his first NFL training camp. Instead, the Iowa cornerback arrived in Chicago ready to unofficially kick off his senior season. Before he met with the media horde, King got a welcome from a familiar face at his hotel room.

It was Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis.

Fittingly, the two friends were at the same place at the same time. They both faced the same questions from B1G media.

“Why did you decide to come back to school?”

“How do you handle having a target on your back?”

“Who’s the best cornerback in college football?”

But when the Detroit natives met each other upon King’s arrival in Chicago, they didn’t ask each other those questions. The top two cornerbacks in college football got to catch up like old friends do.

Even though their schools are separated by 400-plus miles, they burst onto the scene together in 2015. But the returning All-Americans don’t mind sharing the spotlight.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a rivalry,” King said. “It’s a competitive relationship. Growing up with each other, we’ve been competing against each other for a while now…it’s been that way with video games, playing basketball. It’s always been like that.”

There’s a better word to describe their relationship.

“It’s like a brotherhood,” King said.


Their paths to stardom had similar beginnings as prep stars at their respective Detroit high schools. There was no guarantee that either would even play cornerback in college.

King was a three-star running back recruit coming out of East English Village. Kirk Ferentz actually thought his future was at safety.

Lewis was the more highly-touted four-star recruit with the Michigan offer. But some wondered if the Cass Tech standout was better suited to play receiver.

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Three years after their college careers began, there seems to be a consensus about the positions they ended up at.

“No one knew the top two cornerbacks in the country were going to be from the city of Detroit,” King said. “Nobody would’ve known that coming into last year. That’s just something we take pride in, and we’re honored to have it.”

King says “we,” referring to he and Lewis as the top two cornerbacks in the country. But Lewis isn’t so sure that’s a two-man title.

“Man, I couldn’t even tell you (who the best cornerback is) because I haven’t seen anybody else except Desmond,” Lewis said. “I know Desmond has always been that type of playmaker. He is the best defensive back in the B1G because as you saw, he’s a ballhawk. I mean, you couldn’t throw it his way. It was evident. There was no debate about it.

“He was the best last year and he’s trying to claim that this year, as many of us are.”

The numbers suggest that both are worthy of being called “the best cornerback in college football.”

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Lewis defended an FBS-best 15 passes last year, while King was second in FBS in interceptions. Lewis allowed just 17 catches on 58 targets in his final 10 games, while King allowed a B1G-best 23.0 passer rating to QBs when he defended in the slot. Lewis missed just two tackles all year in the passing game, while King was the nation’s second-most efficient tackler at the position.

It’s doesn’t take long to look at the Pro Football Focus metrics on the two to understand why they got their All-American honors. King became the first Iowa player ever to win the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s best defensive back.

His Detroit buddy enjoyed watching him roll in the accolades last season.

“It’s just really good feeling to see one of my good friends getting that notoriety that he really deserves,” Lewis said. “He played great in high school and now he’s getting noticed nationally now. It just feels good for me knowing that I grew up with a guy like that.”


After 2016, they’ll take another step together. They easily could’ve taken it last year. Nobody would’ve raised an eyebrow had they chosen to cash in on their breakout seasons.

That, however, wasn’t part of their plan. Yet.

“I came back for my education, which was my first priority. That’s why I’m here at the university was to get my education to play football,” King said. “And the bond with my teammates. It’s like a family atmosphere at the University of Iowa. We all care about each other. I talked with a couple of my teammates, people in my family, my coaches and I told them, ‘I want to focus on football when I’m done.’

“I thought about what life after football is going to be like. Getting your degree is something no one can take from you.”

Lewis echoed that logic.

“It was just having those people in my corner say, ‘Why not finish what you started? It’s only one more year. Why not go win you a B1G Championship and a national championship? Why not have those things to hang your hat on, rather than just having a one-year contract or something?’” Lewis said. “In hindsight, you can say, ‘He missed out on a lot of money.’

“But you’ve gotta invest in yourself. I think that’s what you can get in your education.”

Both King and Lewis have already given their programs more than they could’ve ever hoped for. They’ll likely be consensus preseason All-Americans. Quarterbacks will likely try and avoid their sides of the field altogether, that is, assuming they learned anything from watching them in 2015.

When Iowa and Michigan face off in November, it’ll mark King and Lewis’ first battle since they were freshmen in 2013. Back then, they were just a couple of Detroit kids trying to earn playing time for middle-of-the-pack B1G teams.

It’ll be different set of circumstances this time around. A College Football Playoff berth could be hanging in the balance. It could also decide another question on everyone’s mind.

“Who’s the best cornerback in college football?”