By Adam Hensley
Iowa defensive back Josh Jackson (15) celebrates an interception in the second half of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York on Wednesday, Dec. 27. The Hawkeyes went on to win 27-20. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)
Leading the nation in interceptions and passes defended has to be good for something, right?
Josh Jackson’s defensive heroics during his 2017 campaign earned him the recognition as The Daily Iowan’s top male athlete.
Jackson only appeared in eight games during his sophomore season, totaling 10 tackles. With the departure of All-American Desmond King, the Hawkeye secondary looked for someone, anyone, to step up and fill those shoes. Jackson delivered.
The Texas native snagged a school-record-tying 8 interceptions, returned a pair of those picks for 6 points, defended an NCAA-best 26 passes, and broke up 18. He made his presence felt all over the field, notching 48 tackles (34 solo) and forcing a fumble. He also blocked a field goal in Iowa’s win over North Texas. Jackson played his best when Iowa faced the toughest competition. In a loss to Wisconsin in Madison, Jackson snagged 2 interceptions and returned both for scores. He was the first player in Big Ten history to return 2 interceptions for touchdowns in the same game.
Later in the season, when Iowa upset No. 3 Ohio State, the Hawkeye defense ate Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett alive, and Jackson did the bulk of the damage and made arguably the best play of the season.
Jackson intercepted a trifecta of Buckeye passes, and his final come came with added style points — a one-handed, falling backwards interception on an end zone heave from Barrett.
In 2017, Jackson was a unanimous Consensus First Team All-American, a first-team player for the Associated Press, AFCA, FWAA, Sporting News, Walter Camp, College Sports Madness, CollegeFootballNews.com, ESPN.com, SBNation.com, USA Today, and Phil Steele.
Jackson, now a member of the Green Bay Packers’ secondary, heard his name called in the second round of the NFL Draft after many expected him to be a lock in Round 1. Regardless, his time at Iowa was one for the record books, and his performance was good enough to earn the honors of the DI’s top male athlete.
By Jordan Zuniga
Iowa forward Megan Gustafson goes for an rebound during the Iowa/Penn State basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions, 80-76. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)
The Iowa women’s basketball team had quite a year. It finished 24-8 and made it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.
A large part of its success was due to junior center Megan Gustafson.
She was coming off a stellar sophomore campaign, which meant expectations were high for her entering the season.
She not only met those expectations, she vastly exceeded them. There is no question Gustafson was the best player on her team, leading Iowa in points, rebounds, blocks, field-goal percentage, and free throw percentage.
In addition to her leading the team in numerous statistical categories, Gustafson now holds the Hawkeye single-season records in points (823), rebounds (411), field goals (320), field-goal percentage (67.1), free throws (183), free throws attempted (227), and double-doubles (28).
The double-double machine also holds the school record for both men and women for most double-doubles in a career with 55, and that number is sure to increase next year.
While Gustafson unquestionably had the best season of any women athlete this year, she was in the conversation for best the best player in women’s college basketball.
A finalist for several major awards, Gustafson led the NCAA in points per game, field-goal percentage, and field goals, along with being named a unanimous All-American and All-Big Ten selection.
Not to mention, she was voted by the media as the Big Ten Player of the Year. Perhaps the highlight of her year was Iowa’s final game in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Hawkeyes might have fallen to Minnesota, 90-89, but Gustafson put on one of the best performances ever by a Hawkeye basketball player.
In that game, Gustafson put up an eye-popping 48 points while grabbing 15 rebounds, setting Iowa’s single-game points record.
It certainly was a fantastic season for Gustafson, but the incredible part about it is the fact that she will be back next season, which means the days of some Hawkeye records are likely numbered.