The news hit DeMarco Paine hard. After putting in months of hard work and sweat, he would not see the fruits of his labor.
The NCAA Clearinghouse informed Paine that his true freshman season was over at Iowa, something it had found in his high school transcript. The call came in late November as the Hawkeyes were preparing for a trip to Tampa for the Outback Bowl.
"It was hard," Paine said. "I already had been fitted for my bowl ring. I was excited to go on the bowl trip with the Hawkeyes. When I got that news, it hurt me for real.
"Then again, it's making me work that much harder to get back to Iowa and do what I have to do."
Paine enrolled at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa last January. He said he is required to obtain 60 credits there before he is eligible to return to Iowa City.
"I'm going to be back there June 1, 2010," Paine said.
Paine played as a true freshman at Iowa last season after a standout career at Hazelwood High in the St. Louis area. Scout.com ranked him a three-star recruit on its five-star scale.
Iowa Central moved up to No. 18 in the NJCAA national poll after a week one win. Former Hawkeye Clinton Solomon and current cornerback Amari Spievey came to Iowa, went to Iowa Central and then returned to Iowa City.
"(Spievey) just told me to take care of my business and get back with them," Paine said.
The move from high-level Division I football to junior college certainly can be eye opening.
"It was like moving from a mansion to an apartment," Paine said.
Paine is using the experience as a life lesson.
"It taught me to respect what I have in life when I have it," he said. "When I was up (at Iowa), I should have played harder. It wasn't my decision to leave, it just happened. As I sit home and watch the Hawkeyes on TV, it makes me anxious to get back and be ready to go."
Paine said that the Iowa coaches want him back.
"They call me and tell me that they know I'm anxious to get back there," Paine said. "They just tell me to do good in the classroom and stay out of trouble."
Paine said he is focused on taking care of business to reclaim his goal of playing big time college football.
"The competition level is a lot different," Paine said. "Of course the guys at Iowa are better, faster and know the game better than these guys down here.
"I just go out to practice every day. I do my routes hard. I just give it all I got in practice every day. When it comes to be game time, I just sell out on the field."
If Paine get back to Iowa City, he will be reunited with two high school teammates. Class of 2010 recruits Christian Kirksey and Don Shumpert recently verbally committed to the Hawkeyes.
"That's a good thing," Paine said. "I told those guys that it's a good program they run at Iowa. They liked it, too. They're real good players."
DeMarco Paine waited his whole life to play major college football only to have the rug pulled out from under him last November. He was forced to leave Iowa and attend junior college, but the wide receiver has every intention of returning to the Hawkeyes. Senior Writer Rob Howe spoke with Paine and filed this feature story.