When Kamari Cotton-Moya looks back on his sophomore season, he knows he was in the wrong.
"I realized I may have been taking things for granted," the Iowa State safety said. "Not preparing the right way and doing the right things."
Fresh off the heels of a redshirt freshman season that included Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2014, Cotton-Moya missed half of his sophomore season after a hamstring injury midway through the year. He started six games in 2015, recording 40 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss including 18 combined tackles against Iowa and TCU.
Yet he knows his sophomore season was a lost opportunity.
"I feel like maybe when I got hurt I was lackadaisical," he said. "Our season wasn't going the way I wanted it to go and I was like 'Whatever, I'm in it for the stats maybe or something like that.' Once I realized I couldn't play the rest of the season I realized I need to do something different."
A disappointing sophomore season sparked Cotton-Moya's desire to renew his commitment to excelling as one of the foundations of Iowa State's defense.
"I need to make sure every step is the right step," he said. "Doing the right things could lead to me not being hurt."
At his best, Cotton-Moya has the potential to be one of the Big 12's most feared defenders. His freshman season featured big hits, pass breakups and a tone-setting aggressiveness from the safety. Heading into his second season, he looked destined for all-conference honors at some point during his career. Instead, he spent half of the season on the sideline. As Matt Campbell takes over as head coach in Ames, Iowa, Cotton-Moya is focused on making his junior season the best of his career -- both individually and for the team -- while suiting up for a Cyclones squad that hasn't made a bowl game since 2012.
"I'm growing as a player," Cotton-Moya said. "My mind, my mental, my physical. We have a great team and we have great coaches behind us. Change may be good, may be bad, we don't know. But I do know we have a great chance to play, a great chance to do something good."