Within a second, Jordan Lomax had it sniffed out.

Eleven yards separated the Iowa safety from the line of scrimmage. He was lined up at the position he’d grown to appreciate. This time, there wasn’t a receiver that he had to worry about. Purdue’s running back in motion wasn’t a threat, either. As soon as quarterback David Blough showed his hand, Lomax made his break.

It was a draw. It was well-blocked, too. With the 6-1 signal-caller, that usually ends with a solid gain and gang tackle at the second level.

Lomax had other plans.

As quickly as Blough’s running lane opened up, Lomax closed it with a hit that rocked Purdue in more ways than one. Not only did Blough fumble, he also suffered a season-ending concussion.

The shot produced a different reaction for Lomax.

“I can’t even put it into words,” he said. “It was a surreal feeling.”

Those who witness Lomax’s hits often struggle to come up with words other than “Ohhhhhhhh.” Coming up with a comparison isn’t as difficult. Lomax’s two years as a hard-hitting safety brought Iowa fans back to the days of Bob Sanders, AKA “Hit Man.” They shared the same physical build and the same desire to be the enforcer.

Lomax admitted those comparisons humble him, but there’s a major difference between he and the Iowa legend. Sanders had a prolific eight-year NFL career. Lomax is still putting in work just to hear his name announced on draft day.

He’s grateful just to have that opportunity. Two years ago, the thought of earning an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine as a safety was nonexistent.

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For starters, Lomax wasn’t even a safety at the time. The Upper Malboro, Md., native played safety in high school, but he came to Iowa set on becoming a cornerback. He overcame a season-ending shoulder injury as a sophomore in 2012 and had his sights set on solidifying himself in his third-season in Iowa City.

He was the team’s opening day starter at cornerback in 2013, but he injured his hamstring that day. By the time Lomax came back a month later, a freshman named Desmond King had taken his job. It became clear that King wasn’t letting go of it anytime soon.

It crushed Lomax. Riding the bench in his final two seasons wasn’t an attractive option. He debated transferring or just giving up football altogether.

Not wanting to lose the playmaking-defender, the Iowa coaching staff came up with a third option. Lomax could give his old position another chance.

“I didn’t want to do it,” Lomax said. “I wanted to be a corner. I felt like I had proved myself to be a corner and that I would stay at that position. Finally after they did some more talking to me, they were able to convince me to move.

“Honestly, it was the best decision that I’ve agreed to in my life.”

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A new man, Lomax became.

While King developed into a ball-hawking, All-American cornerback, Lomax gave Iowa the perfect compliment it needed to patrol the back end of the secondary during its Rose Bowl run. Two All-B1G seasons saw Lomax record nearly 200 tackles.

A few of them packed a little extra punch.

“It gives a feeling to your body that’s hard to explain,” Lomax said. “It’s just something you can’t buy. It’s something that I just love to do.”

Lomax wants to continue that at the professional level. To do that, he knows that a solid showing in the 40-yard dash is his best chance. Anywhere in the 4.4-range, he said, should put him in the right position to get drafted.

Even though he hasn’t been officially clocked in the 40 since high school — Iowa doesn’t record 40-times — Lomax is confident he’s plenty faster than that after five years in Iowa City.

He’s also confident he can impress NFL teams during the pre-draft interview process. The second team Academic All-American plans on showcasing his abilities off the field. Lomax prides himself on being a better student of the game than he was during his cornerback days. For that, he has Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker to thank.

“He’s taken my game to an entire ‘nother level,” Lomax said of Parker. “I can honestly say that without him helping me with my preparation, my technique, my film study, that I would not be where I am today.”

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There’s a group of approximately 15 football players that take part in Iowa’s pre-draft training program. That includes the likes of NFL Hawkeyes like Carl Davis, Marshal Yanda and John Lowdermilk.

In addition to pushing them in the weight room, they offered the NFL hopefuls some key advice.

“They said that it’s more mental than physical,” Lomax said. “They’ve just been telling me to be mentally tough, to be professional about the entire situation, be on time and be myself out there.”

Lomax’s focus won’t be to convince every front office that he’s the next coming of Sanders.

Sure, he’d appreciate if scouts likened his ability to come downhill and make pass-reads to Sanders’. It would help Lomax’s case if every scout watched his highlight tape chock-full of ball-separating hits to B1G ball-carriers.

Perhaps more important than anything, Lomax is eager to prove that he still hasn’t maximized his potential as a safety yet. He’s a far cry from the guy who wasn’t sure if he wanted to play football anymore.

“This position has definitely given me new life,” he said.

And with it, Lomax hopes, his football life will continue on Sundays.