College football: Hawkeyes with Ohio ties are out to beat Buckeyes

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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John Lowdermilk

The last time John Lowdermilk was in Ohio Stadium, he wore scarlet and gray in the stands and rushed the field with other fans to celebrate the conclusion of Ohio State’s 27-24 overtime win over Iowa.

Lowdermilk returns to Ohio Stadium on Saturday for the first time since the Buckeyes won the Big Ten title on that memorable night of Nov. 14, 2009. Once again, Lowdermilk will be on the field, but this time the native of Carrollton, Ohio, will be trying to beat the Buckeyes while starting at strong safety for the Hawkeyes.

“It’s a little weird,” the junior told Iowa reporters this week.

His father, Kirk, will also be in Ohio Stadium, where he played center for Ohio State from 1981 to ’84 and earned all-Big Ten honors as a senior when he helped the Buckeyes reach the Rose Bowl. On Saturday, however, the elder Lowdermilk won’t be donning OSU colors inside the Horseshoe when he uses the season tickets he has had since leaving school.

“I’m going to wear black and gold, buddy. There was no hesitation,” Kirk Lowdermilk said.

And the former Buckeye, who played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts, said he’ll have no difficulty cheering against Ohio State on Saturday.

“If you’ve got kids, you know what would happen if you were in the same boat I’m in,” he said. “You’d support your kid 100 times all the way.”

Changing loyalty is a theme for this Big Ten game, which features two other Ohioans starting on the Iowa defense: senior linebacker Anthony Hitchens of Lorain and senior cornerback B.J. Lowery of Cincinnati. They are among 10 players on Iowa’s roster who are from Ohio. The other seven are reserves, including nickel back Sean Draper, a sophomore from Cleveland.

Reserve running back LeShun Daniels Jr. of Warren is the son of LeShun Daniels, who played offensive line at Ohio State in the 1990s. The freshman has rushed for 84 yards on 19 carries (an average of 4.4 per carry) this season for the Hawkeyes, although he hasn’t carried the ball in two Big Ten games.

Hitchens is Iowa’s leading tackler for a second consecutive season, and his average of 9.8 tackles ranks second in the Big Ten behind the 12.0 average of Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown.

Lowery set an Iowa record Sept. 21 by returning two interceptions for touchdowns in a 59-3 win over Western Michigan. His scoring returns of 35 yards and 13 yards led to him being named Big Ten defensive player of the week.

“I’m sure he wants to get a ‘W’ and ruin Ohio State’s national title hopes,” said Jolinda Miller, athletic director of Cincinnati Hughes, where Lowery attended. “I don’t know how I feel about that. I grew up a huge Ohio State football fan. Oh what if B.J. gets a pick, runs it back, and ruins Ohio State’s national title hopes? I have to say let the kid play. My heart is going to be with (him).”

Miller said Lowery, 5 feet 11 and 193 pounds, wasn’t recruited by Ohio State.

“He’s a great young man and a real positive member of our team who has developed into a good leader,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We’ve had some luck with guys who were a little under-recruited, and B.J. is one of those guys.”

Lowdermilk, 6-2 and 207, was also not recruited by Ohio State, said his father.

“Sometimes things happen for a reason,” Kirk Lowdermilk said. “My wife always said that. I think John ended up in the best place for him. Yeah, I think when (Ohio State) said they weren’t going to offer him a scholarship, he was heartbroken. But at the same time, he hung in there. Some other things worked out, and he made the most of it.

“I couldn’t be happier for him. It was his dream to play at Ohio State, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. He has landed in a great place. They’re great people. It’s a great environment with great fans, but they don’t have The Best Damn Band in the Land.”

tjones@dispatch.com

@Todd_Jones

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