Nick Easley just wanted a shot. A walk-on player who didn’t receive much attention coming out of Iowa Western Community College, Kirk Ferentz decided to take a chance on the 5-foot-11 receiver.

Easley took advantage of the opportunity. It culminated in an Outback Bowl Most Valuable Player honor after Iowa knocked off Mississippi State 27-22 on New Year’s Day. He caught eight passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the win.

After the game, Easley spoke with the media to talk about his outstanding performance and reflected on his time at Iowa. He extended plenty of thanks to Ferentz for taking a chance.

“I’m so thankful for [Coach Ferentz] and the opportunity he and his staff have given me,” Easley said following the Outback Bowl. “I don’t think there’s a better coach in the entire nation — and I’m just talking giving everyone a chance, treating everyone fairly and with respect. I’m so glad I got to play for him.”

Easley was fighting back tears during his comments. So was Ferentz.

Easley played in all 13 games for the Hawkeyes this season, totaling 52 catches for 494 yards and five touchdowns. Tuesday’s performance was just the second time in his career he had over 100 receiving yards in a game.

It was an incredible way to cap his career at Iowa. Still, Easley pointed to Ferentz and his staff for that opportunity.

“They gave me every shot in the world to compete, just as much as a scholarship guy,” Easley said. “I’ll be forever thankful for that.”

During his two seasons with the Hawkeyes, Easley tallied 103 receptions for 1,024 yards and nine touchdowns. In his first season with the program (2017), he led the team with 51 catches for 530 yards.