AMES — The news of Kamari Cotton-Moya’s Big 12 honor hit him electronically. And its seemingly out-of-the-blue nature caused him to scratch his head.
"Me? The Big 12 freshman defensive player of the year? Really?"
The hard-hitting Iowa State safety was skeptical that he’d scooped up the award voted on by the league’s coaches, so began a fact-finding mission on the Internet.
"I didn’t believe it at first, so I had to look into it more," said Cotton-Moya, who spoke to the media Wednesday afternoon on conference call.
So he went straight to the Big 12’s website and perused his trusted Twitter feeds, which confirmed the veracity of the news. He is indeed the Big 12 freshman defensive player of the year.
"Made my day," said the 6-1, 194-pounder from Bakersfield, Calif.
Cotton-Moya led the Cyclones with 77 tackles this season. He also forced a fumble and defended eight passes. His signature (positive) moment came in his second career start, when he popped rugged Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters at the goal line, preventing a two-point conversion. His signature (not-so-positive) moment came against Baylor, when Bears quarterback Bryce Petty hurdled over him as he tried to lower the boom.
"My mom and my dad are my biggest supporters and they told me to keep my head up and keep playing hard," Cotton-Moya said two days after that play occured.
He definitely listened to mom and dad — and today received a surprise party one day before an expected celebration. Cotton-Moya’s birthday is tomorrow, so Wednesday’s news, once confirmed, provided him with an early present.
"It just came true," Cotton-Moya said. "I’m hoping that next year I’ll go further than being what I was this year and hopefully get an all-Big 12 (accolade)."
He’s not alone.
One of his closest friends on the team, true freshman receiver Allen Lazard — who coincidentally also celebrates a birthday tomorrow — was an honorable mention selection on the Big 12’s all-rookie team.
"We’re both No. 5," Cotton-Moya said of his unique bond with Lazard. "Our birthdays are both on December 11th. Our lockers sit next to each other and we just always challenge each other, no matter what, through practice, in the weight room on the game field. … We try to bring it to the table. If we can’t, we know what we’ve got to improve on and we attack it at practice."