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ISU Defensive Player to Watch: FS Kamari Cotton-Moya

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The Cyclones' free safety overcame odds and injuries to pose a strong threat to the Frogs' offensive game this weekend.

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Being from California, let me give you the lowdown on Bakersfield.  It's not the beach.  It's not pretty, unless you want sparse, drought-afflicted farmland.  In the summer, it's just as hot as Texas, minus some humidity.  There aren't even very many trees.  Bakersfield is one of those places you only want to stop for a bathroom and Taco Bell break (possibly in reverse order).  But every now and then a gem comes out of that dry, sparse place; Kamari Cotton-Moya is one of those gems.

Cotton-Moya grew up in Bakersfield with his mom and three siblings.  He started playing football as a bobble-headed pee-wee player.  He played quarterback and remained a QB through high school, while also dabbling in a little DB work on the side.  Pac 12 schools had their eye on him his junior year, but Cotton-Moya had a problem -- he enjoyed the stereotypical "jock" life.  He partied and slacked off in school until something changed his senior year: he had a daughter, Mylah.  In anticipation of her birth, he decided to make a concerted effort to change.  He studied, raised his grades, and had 3,838 yards and 40 touchdowns his senior year.  He got into Iowa State and Mylah was born soon after.

But a week after his daughter's birth in May of 2013, Cotton-Moya went to one last party (because what else is there to do in Bakersfield??).  Of course, as many high school parties do, it ended in a fight and Cotton-Moya decided to get out of there.  But he wasn't quick enough and got shot in the shoulder as he and his friends drove away.  Fortunately, it wasn't a career-ending injury, and he continued on to Iowa State (he had already signed with them in January).  After redshirting in 2013, Cotton-Moya was the 2014 Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.  He started 11 of 12 games and led the team with 77 total tackles, including 2 tackles for loss.  He earned First Team Freshman All-American honors.

Now fast-forward to this past March, when the Cyclones played their spring game.  Cotton-Moya had another serious injury when a big tackle led to him laying on the ground having what looked like a seizure, according to ISU secondary coach Maurice Linguist.  He was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance and spent four days recovering before his release.  After additional testing, he was allowed to return to football.

This season, Cotton-Moya has had 31 total tackles, including 18 solo.  He averages more than 6 tackles per game.

While he doesn't have any sacks or interceptions to his name yet in 2015, that isn't for lack of trying.  Like most quarterbacks-turned-secondary players, Cotton-Moya has speed and a great ability to read the offense.  Before the Frogs snap the ball, you can bet he's lined up and prepared for what's coming.  Of course, you can only prepare so much for guys like Doctson, Green, Boykin, Listenbee, and Turpin.  Boykin's last-minute run decisions may get him some extra yards, but once Cotton-Moya sees the run, you can bet he'll match Boykin's speed head-on.  Boykin will have to be smart and know when to pull one of those Patterson-pleasing slides to avoid a hard hit.  Cotton-Moya clearly didn't pose much of a threat last year to the Frogs, who outscored the Cyclones 55-3.  In my opinion, he's not quite as agile as some of the other safeties we've seen.  Once he plants his feet and moves in for the tackle, he can be beaten with a little fancy maneuvering.  But you can bet Cotton-Moya is ready to show he's improved over last year.  The Frogs just need to be the Frogs and do their thing on offense, while keeping an eye on Cotton-Moya's whereabouts on the field.

*Shoutout to the Ames Tribune for their great coverage on all things Kamari Cotton-Moya, which assisted with this article.