Tim Dwight was swimming with some buddies in the Wisconsin River a few summers ago when he looked up at a cliff towering above him and knew instantly what he had to do. Dwight climbed the bluff, waited for a tour boat to pass and then took a flying leap over the edge. "It seemed like a day before I hit water," says Dwight, the Iowa senior wide receiver-return man-daredevil. "I landed right in the middle of a group of guys Jet-Skiing. They were, like, 'Where did you come from?' I said, 'From up there.' They said, 'You're crazy, dude!' "
Dwight takes the same approach to football. Though only 5'9" and 185 pounds, he has used his 4.4 speed to jump in wherever needed by the Hawkeyes, who finished the regular season 7-4 after last Saturday's 31-0 victory over Minnesota at Iowa City. Dwight leads the nation in punt return average (19.3 yards), and with 48 return yards—including 44 on a touchdown scamper—in his farewell home game, he surpassed Northwestern's Brian Musso to become the Big Ten's career punt return leader, with 1,086 yards. His 29 receiving yards on four catches pushed him past Danan Hughes, now of the Kansas City Chiefs, into first in career receiving yardage at Iowa (2,220). "He's the most exciting player I've had in 18 years here," Iowa coach Hayden Fry says.
Not that Dwight hasn't tested Fry's patience—racing motorcycles, jumping off apartment balconies into snowdrifts, running headlong into oncoming tacklers and generally behaving like Evel Knievel. "Tim's a great athlete," says Iowa tailback Tavian Banks, "but he's a little crazy."
As a football and track phenom at City High in Iowa City, Dwight so dominated his opponents that some took one look at his prematurely receding hairline and figured he was either older than he said or was using steroids. He vehemently denies the latter and has a birth certificate to refute the former.
In four college seasons Dwight, an Iowa City native, evoked memories of another homegrown Hawkeye, 1939 Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick (SI, Aug. 31, 1987).
Last year Dwight broke the oldest standing Hawkeyes single-season or career record—Kinnick's one-year mark for punt return yardage, set in 1937—when he got 440 yards on 24 returns. This year, in Iowa's 28-24 loss to Michigan on Oct. 18, Dwight zigzagged 61 yards with a punt for one score, returned a kickoff 72 yards to set up a field goal and caught a pass for seven yards. Afterward Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr praised Dwight's all-around game and called him "the best blocking receiver" he'd ever seen. The following week against Indiana, Dwight caught a 29-yard touchdown pass, threw a tight spiral for a 64-yard TD pass and returned a punt 92 yards for another score as Iowa won 62-0. Early this season Dwight even played nickelback on defense, before Iowa coaches halted the plan for fear that they would burn out their dynamo.
Dwight, who is on course to graduate in May with a degree in sports management, hopes to play in the NFL next year. Scouts have compared him to All-Pro special teams player Steve Tasker of the Buffalo Bills, and he's projected as a second- or third-round draft pick. But if a pro career doesn't pan out, Dwight won't sit still. "There's a ton of stuff I haven't done that I want to do," he says with a wicked grin. "Bungee jumping, skydiving, Whitewater rafting...."