AMES — Kamari Cotton-Moya’s on a health kick.
Sleep matters. So does what he puts in his body. Fast food is out, real food is in for the 2014 FWAA First-Team Freshman All-American who’s now primed and healthy for a junior season breakthrough.
“I’m taking care of my body better than I ever have,” said Iowa State’s standout safety, who missed the final six games of 2015 because of a hamstring injury. “Feeling good.”
Cotton-Moya’s return to full health bodes well for a Cyclone defense that returns nine players with starting experience.
And he’s not only physically better. Cotton-Moya’s deepened his discipline, policing everything that finds its way into his stomach — as well as ensuring he’s refreshed and focused for each of this spring’s demanding but rewarding 15 practices under new head coach Matt Campbell.
“I learned that this business that we’re in, this conference that we’re in (requires) hard work and you’ve got to the care of your body just as hard as you play, so I’ve been trying to take care of my body every day,” the 6-1, 197-pounder from Bakersfield, Calif., said.
How? It’s a pretty strict regimen.
“I try to be in bed at 10 o’clock,” Cotton-Moya said. “I try to be asleep by 10:30. I’ve been reading a lot of different things about how you can control your sleep and not be on your phone doing different things, so I’ve deleted most of my social media.”
One purely social app reigns supreme for one of the Big 12’s best safeties — and ISU’s de facto field general on defense.
It’s what allows him to be in frequent contact with his soon-to-be three-year old daughter, Mylah.
“I make it a priority of my day to FaceTime her and talk to her and let her know what I’m doing is for her benefit and for our future," Cotton-Moya said. "My number one priority is to get a degree, no matter what, so, I’m going to get a degree.”
That, coupled with his parental responsibilities and NFL hopes, creates the perfect climate for consistent discipline. He’s playing — and studying — for something (read: someone) greater than just himself.
“I just have a small margin for error so I can’t really mess up anything,” said Cotton-Moya, who blames himself for the hamstring injury that struck him during a midweek practice last fall. “I just think about her. She’s my motivation and my family is motivation.”
That’s both powerful and meaningful. Oh, and about those transfer rumors that popped up during the offseason …
“Oh, no,” Cotton-Moya said shaking his head. “I didn’t entertain that at all.”
Instead, he’s focused on becoming an All-Big 12 player — with no age-based qualifier attached. Cotton-Moya’s compiled double-digit tackles in a game twice. He introduced himself to Campbell by establishing a career-high in stops with 12 in a 2014 win over Toledo.
“Obviously from an evaluation standpoint, from the point of being on the other side of evaluating Kamari the last two years, I think the world of what his skill set is, especially at full strength,” Campbell said. “He’s a really dynamic player. … He’s a smart kid and he’s got the ability to communicate and in todays’ game of football. It used to be linebackers were the great communicators, but in reality, it’s safeties and the guys have to be able to align and adjust with the tempo of offenses today and certainly Kamari’s got the ability to do it.”
It starts with natural talent. It grows through cleaner foods, a good night’s sleep and a father’s love.
Mylah turns three on May 6. He’ll be there to celebrate.
Then it’s back to Ames — to school and football, which entwine to form a basic, but free-flowing plan in Cotton-Moya’s mind.
“Doing what I can do,” he said, “and making the impossible happen.”