Ihmir Smith-Marsette was nothing if not a total wildcard of an Iowa football player. Sometimes it felt like the wide receiver could make the greatest play you’ve ever seen or one of the silliest mistakes to grace the field at Kinnick Stadium. I still remember him being overthrown his freshman season (2017) on a deep ball against Minnesota only to use his blazing speed to catch up to it but not enough to retrieve the ball. It went off his fingers into the arms of a diving Golden Gopher.
But he also had the potential to house it any time he had the ball. The speed demon ended his career with 20 all-purpose touchdowns and the 120 associated points would place him fourth among wide receivers, and the most since Marvin McNutt.
He produced in each of his four seasons as a Hawkeye and burst onto the scene in a big way, with the game winning grab against the Iowa State Cyclones in his second game, his second of the afternoon. He’d finish the season with 187 receiving yards on 18 receptions and just the two touchdowns.
His sophomore season saw him put up big numbers early - he had 209 yards on 10 grabs through four games - but tail off considerably as he finished with just 152 more yards on 13 catches. He showed all sides of his abilities throughout that season, coming away as the Big Ten’s Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist that year as he accrued 707 kick return yards. In Iowa’s Outback Bowl, he tallied 150 return yards on 5 attempts against Mississippi State. Unfortunately, a fumble allowed the Bulldogs to take the lead early in the second half. He was always interesting!
Things really came together for ISM his junior season with 722 receiving yards to lead the team, as well as a team-high 10 touchdowns. He racked up a number of key receptions, including in tight games against rivals Iowa State & Nebraska. He’ll be best known for his Holiday Bowl performance where he notched a receiving, rushing, and return touchdown and took home offensive MVP honors.
(My favorite part is the “V” on his way into the end zone for his return TD but that’s just me)
His senior season was filled with highs and lows, sometimes at the same time. He was pulled over for a DUI following Iowa’s loss to Northwestern. He came back with a renewed focus and finished the season in receiving yardage at 345 on 25 grabs. His returning was lackluster, but only because he set such a high bar for himself in his prior two campaigns. He’ll probably be remembered for his genuinely insane front-flip touchdown against Wisconsin. There’s really no single play which encapsulates all that is Ihmir Smith-Marsette than that one:
From a draft perspective, ISM, is incredible enticing as a returner despite the play being weened from the NFL. He posted a 4.43 40 time during Iowa’s pro day, including a 1.44 10-yard split. Though his 6’0.5” 181 pound frame is a little slight, in a game increasingly built on speed, he’s not out of place amongst wide receivers.
Dings on him are his inconsistency (drops) and lacking “deep burst.” Scott Dochterman has him slated in the 4th round to Las Vegas, on the back of his ability to boost the Raiders’ lackluster return game. It’s well above Dane Brugler’s 260-spot. Todd McShay has him a little higher at 170. Such is life projecting the NFL Draft.
There’s one thing I know, I’ll miss watching Ihmir Smith-Marsette play in the black and gold. His exuberance is they type of personality not often seen in Kinnick Stadium.