IOWA CITY, Ia. — He started eight games at safety for the Hawkeyes as a true sophomore last season and tied for second in the Big Ten with four interceptions.
With the departure of last year’s starting safeties Amani Hooker and Jake Gervase, Geno Stone is now one of the veterans in Iowa’s back four on defense. He embraces the leadership role that comes with the territory of being an upperclassmen and demands a lot out of himself.
The Pennsylvania native admits there’s some pressure with replacing Hooker and Gervase, but Stone doesn’t let it get to him because he trusts everyone he’s currently on the field with. Iowa’s secondary been having fun through summer workouts and look to be one of the top units again in the Big Ten.
The Hawkeyes’ finished No. 2 in the Big Ten in rushing, scoring and total defense last season and led the league with 20 interceptions. Stone knows in order for his team to accomplish that feat again the players must get stronger in the weight room, more knowledgeable in the film room and play more physical on the field.
Hooker was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Back of the Year last season and Stone often finds himself being compared to him. Stone doesn’t mind it at all and believes he learned a lot from Hooker as far as getting into the film room and studying opponents. He believes it has made him a smarter player and his instincts on the field are second to none.
“Intelligence helps me a lot with being in the right place at the right time,” he said. “Knowing what formation the offense is going to come out in and what play they’ll run out of that formation.”
That knowledge has helped Stone intercept five passes over the past two seasons and he returned one for a score against Penn State last year. He has a personal goal of picking off six to seven passes this upcoming season. Stone wants to become more of a physical player also.
He molds his game after legendary safeties such as Brian Dawkins, Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu and Sean Taylor, with their downhill style and ability to cover.
“That’s one thing I always want someone to say about me, is that I’m a physical player,” Stone said. “I want to be someone that’s known for hitting.”
The secondary has meetings four times a week and Stone feels Defensive Coordinator Phil Parker trusts him to guide the young defensive backs in those meetings and out on the field. However, Stone enters the 2019 season with a chip on his shoulder.
Stone barely stands over five-foot-nine and the 210-pounder knows he’s undersized at the free safety position. Still, he’s aware of critics’ remarks on social media and although Stone doesn’t tweet he still reads what’s out there on Twitter.
“I see all those things about me not being athletic as other people, not having the height or body size, so I guess I gotta prove these doubters wrong everyday,” Stone said. “But it’s nothing new because I’ve been doing this my whole life.”
The junior admits that proving doubters wrong is not his main motivation. Instead he’s out to help the Hawkeyes win a Big Ten Championship over the next two years and wants to earn higher recognition than Honorable Mention All-Big Ten.
Stone feels he has matured as a student-athlete and has grown closer with his teammates. Fellow members of Iowa’s secondary Matt Hankins and Michael Ojemudia now resides with him and they have formed a brotherhood bond. He believes it all has helped with their chemistry on the field.
As for now Stone is going back to the basics as fall camp approaches in a couple weeks, but his motto still remains the same.
“I have two years under my belt and now I’m trying to really maximize on my full potential,” he said. “I have high expectations and I’m trying to prove myself everyday.”