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Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and the Plight of Personality at Iowa Football

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Iowa fans made Derrell Johnson-Koulianos “DJK”. It was only a matter of time before DJK made it to Kirk Ferentz’s doghouse.

Orange Bowl - Iowa v Georgia Tech
DJK was a fan-favorite, which Kirk Ferentz was not a fan of.
Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

The Prologue

Before I even begin, I think it’s important for those of you that might not be familiar with my work both on the blog and on our podcast to understand a few things about me. I think it will help you with the head space and point of view I have later on in this post. Whether it’s in regards to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, the Iowa Football program as a whole, or the society we’re living in now, I personally believe if you can start by understanding another person’s point of view (even when it is the exact opposite of your own), change can begin to happen.

Fair? Fair.

First and foremost, I need you to know that I’m an optimist and a believer by nature. Ask every single person on this website. Ask my co-hosts on SpoCo Radio and my best friends. Ask my co-workers. Ask my wife. Ask my family. I genuinely want to find (and often do) the very best in every single person, situation, moment, and position that I can (unless of course that situation is being managed by Gar Forman and John Paxson because if that situation is being manager by Gar Forman or Johsn Paxson there is literally nothing to believe in). I realize that for some people, it’s a little much. I realize that to some people, I’m a little (or extremely) naive; which brings me to my second point... you’re probably right. My optimism and trust and belief in people has burned me plenty of times in my adult life. I’ve believed in people that don’t deserve it. I’ve stuck up for people that ultimately burned me. This is something you can also ask my co-hosts and my best friends and my co-workers and my wife and my family about as well. On top of that, I believe people have layers and that the world we live in is often more grey than it is black and white. I also believe that relationships (especially public ones) are complicated but we nevertheless judge them based on how we perceive each person coming out of that relationship, while dismissing who they were as people before entering them.

Lastly, I don’t know Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on a personal level. While I’ve met him a few times - in part because my wife (a former field hockey player at Iowa) was close with the former Iowa wideout while they were on campus together - I can assure you that if I walked up to him right now, he couldn’t tell you what my name is. I’m not even sure he would remember meeting me. But, I don’t blame him for that. Those days are hazy for me too. Four years of undergrad for an English major isn’t strictly spent “hitting the books”. But, because of her past friendship, I know of a side of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos that most of you do not.

Shockingly, I’m not here to tell you that extremely complex side of the story. In the grand scheme of things, it’s really not my story to tell. I didn’t witness any of the things her or her group of friends have told me. So, from this moment on I want you to know that I promise to only speak about what I know to be true and what I think.

Now, since we’re all on the same page, let’s talk about “DJK”

Before he was “DJK”

Derrell Johnson-Koulianos touched on his background in his statement published and then pulled by HawkeyNation, but as I perused Twitter and message boards, it very rarely, if ever, was brought up and I feel like we need a refresher on how Derrell Johnson ended up becoming “DJK” at Iowa. As I mentioned above, relationships are complicated and things change and move around inside of them, but the people we see at the end of those relationships aren’t by any means the same people they were when they started. So, lets jump back to a time before you would see THOSE t-shirts being sold outside of Hillcrest (you know which ones I’m talking about), before the Sports Illustrated cover, before Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was even Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.

Some of you likely don’t remember “DJK” being Iowa’s version of The Blind Side. Some of you have made the choice not to remember. Here’s a look back at that “silver spoon” lifestyle DJK lived from the moment he was born, in the words of the man himself...

Per The Gazette, Thursday August 5, 2010:

My biological mom had me when she was 14 years old. She kind of got overwhelmed with the process of life and I kind of became a distraction. So my life from a very, very young age — I was raising myself. I was teaching myself about the ways of the world as much as I could growing up where I grew up. I grew up in the projects. That’s how everybody’s life was. I never felt like I was at a disadvantage. I just accepted everything going on in my life. I didn’t know any different. I was running the streets, no curfew. I really had nobody to answer to until I met my mom, Lauren, and my dad, Tony. I’ve seen drive-bys. I’ve been shot at. I’ve seen anything that you see on TV. I just thought that was how the world worked. You were just accustomed to it. That was all I saw, all I knew. Youngstown is rough. I didn’t change clothes for days. I would wake up wherever I was — my buddy’s house, my aunt’s house, this side of town, that side of town. Really just not knowing what the next day would bring, where I would be. Then my life took a drastic change. I met my brother Stephen (Koulianos) when I was in the fifth-grade at Campbell Middle School and we hit it off. You talk about two total opposites. He’s like a genius with computers, film, electronics, art. I was more of a social athlete, that kind of thing. “We became best friends and I started going home with him every day. My mom (Lauren) invited me in, made sure I was up for school, that I had new school clothes. As time went on, I started becoming more and more part of the family with the Koulianos. I moved in. I didn’t know this type of lifestyle existed. The comfort of having somebody who genuinely cares about every aspect of your life. Vacations, family birthdays, little things. It was like a Beaver Cleaver lifestyle. I loved it. I embraced it.

He goes on to say his mom got him to realize that if he wanted to be the next “Terrell Owens” (keep that in mind), he would have to put a larger focus on school. While it was something DJK would work his best at, they would only later realize that school was so difficult because he suffered from ADHD and narcolepsy, both of which subsided once he began taking medication.

In a short period of time, Derrell Johnson’s life changed drastically. Not only did he find a new sense of stability and lifestyle with the Koulianos family, he also got treatment for two ailments that were surely an ever increasing issue in all aspects of his life. On top of that, he was having to navigate these new “blessings” while watching some of his friends fall behind:

At the right time, I caught a blessing, before it went sour. I see some of my best friends from my youth now — it’s sad. Those guys are just going nowhere real fast. I don’t understand why God chose me out of everybody to meet my family. I wouldn’t be here without them. I stay on the grind every day. I try to stop and think as often as I can about how fortunate I am, and where I’d be today if I hadn’t met my mom and dad.

As he continued to mature and grasp the situation he had been given, his passion and love for football continued to grow. Ultimately, the game we all loved watching him play (you know you did) provided him a “role in life” and people started to take notice of his talents when it came to having the rock in his hand. Eventually that led him to Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, a private school and football powerhouse where he would eventually be in charge of running Ron Stoops, Jr.’s offense as the starting QB.

He wasn’t very good to start... wait... **checks notes** ... I’m sorry, as it turns out, the dude was a stud from the jump. As a junior, he rushed for 1,470 yards and passed for 1,300 while accounting for 27 touchdowns. As a senior, he would not only lead his team to a 12-3 overall record and a state runner-up finish as a senior, but he rushed for 1,285 yards and scored 17 touchdowns while playing in just nine games due to injury. He earned first team all-state honors as a junior and senior, was named first team all-conference as a sophomore, junior and senior and finished his high school career as a Top-10 recruit in the state of Ohio.

With offers on the table to play college football, Derrell Johnson HYPHEN Koulianos (he was legally adopted at the age of 18 and changed his named permanently before heading to college) would eventually make the decision to come to Iowa to play wideout where expectations were almost immediately sky high from ALL Hawkeye fans.

From BlackHeartGoldPants via site historian StoopsMyAss:

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit proclaimed at Big Ten media days before the 2006 season that Johnson-Koulianos was probably the best player in Ohio his senior year. In an interview with Marc Moorehouse Johnson-Koulianos would address his emerging status as glorified Hawkeye before ever seeing the field, “We like to call that hype, most people, most players don’t ask for it. No one ever asks for hype. But I know one thing, when there is hype, it motivates you. It sets a spark under you like you’ve got to go, you’ve got to do it.”

Don’t forget, these were desperate times for the program. We needed an uptick in athletic ability desperately and from everything we were able to see at the time (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were not what they are today back then), we had our very own version of Reggie Bush coming to town.

And damnit if we didn’t get sucked into, while also being part of, the hype. Something Derrell Johnson-Koulianos had to deal with from the jump:

“An Internet legend, I don’t know if I’m excited about that,” Johnson-Koulianos said, “I’d rather be an on-the-field legend, but you’ve got to start somewhere I guess. As far as that goes, that’s just the fans. Fans are going to be fans. Fans are going to be fans no matter where you go.”

The Beginning of “DJK”

Derrell Johnson-Koulianos’ career started like most that have entered the Iowa program under Kirk Ferentz: with a redshirt and a permanent spot in Chris Doyle’s weight room. Particularly during the first half of Ferentz’s tenure, it was almost a right of passage for all incoming freshmen to spend a year getting “Big Ten” ready while the upperclassmen (both deserving and not) swallowed up the playing time. But that didn’t stop any of us from dreaming about what this dude from Ohio could be in an Iowa uniform. I don’t remember another player during that period of time being talked about more than Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. Message boards (yes, message boards) filled with hype and hope and pressure. The more we didn’t get to see him in uniform (during a season in which we desperately could’ve used his talent because 2006 was TRASH) and the more Iowa lost Big Ten Conference games (2-6 WOOF) the more we all wondered how great and how high his ceiling would be and what having a player like him could mean in terms of bringing in MORE talent like that in the long run. Could he be the kind of athlete and play maker we were missing? If Kirk Ferentz and Ken O’Keefe could highlight him just right, could other players of his caliber and athleticism realize they could make the “Iowa Way” work for them?

HELL YEAH BROTHER! DJK IS GOING TO CHANGE EVERYTHING!

While he wasn’t listed on the depth chart coming out of Spring Practice in 2007, by the time the season rolled around, he was almost too good to not play (a trend that would continue for the next three years). While seeing only limited action early on in the schedule, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos finished as Iowa’s leading receiver, with big time flashes against Wisconsin (four catches, 45-yards and his first touchdown, a one-handed grab before the end of the first half) and Northwestern.

Still... we all wondered why he wasn’t playing more. Why he wasn’t getting the ball more. Why was a redshirt freshman stuck on the sidelines more than we all thought he should be in a season that was sputtering to a horrid end? Why not play the kids?

We didn’t have answers. We weren’t given answers. But we craved more DJK.

From the end of that season on, everything changed. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was no longer being sheltered (for the time being) by Iowa’s mandate that freshman aren’t allowed to speak with the media and the expectations that had already been simmering from the moment he signed his Letter of Intent began to boil over. This is when “DJK”, one of the few bright spots of 2007 (Iowa would finish the season 6-6 and miss a bowl game for the first time since 2000), began:

Only a sophomore, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos leads the Hawkeyes in nicknames. It’s not even close. “DJK” is running up the score. That’s the quick version fans have globbed onto, “DJK.” Some teammates call him “Revenue-Rell” because he has the type of talent to put fans in the stands. “JK,” “D-John,” “D-John-Kool” and “Koolio” are in play. “It’s crazy. It’s been that way since I was a little boy,” the wide receiver said. “It’s been just nicknames. For some reason people feel like I need a nickname. My first name is just not enough.”

Despite all of that early hype and praise and adoration, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos basically expected all of it and was super annoying about it while also being a terrible, untrustworthy teammate... PSYCHE:

“He’s a real relaxed, chill guy,” outside linebacker A.J. Edds said. “Easy to get along with, kind of easy going, good guy to be around.”

(Albert) Young was more specific. “He reminds me of (Pittsburgh Steelers receiver) Hines Ward a little how he’s always got that big smile on his face when he’s playing,” Young said. “He’s just enjoying the game, loving being out there, loving the experience.”

On the bus ride home from Madison last Saturday night, Johnson-Koulianos was shocked to see some 70 text messages on his cell phone. Young told him to change his number. “I was like, `Hey, that’s what it’s going to be like now,’ “ Young said. “I just told him that he played well. Of course he feels he missed some opportunities, but that’s good, he definitely knows he has room to improve. “His confidence is huge.”

Hmmm...

The Ongoing Oppression of “DJK”

Forgive me for not knowing the exact date, but at some point in 2007, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos gave an interview in a fedora while wearing earrings and referring to himself as “DJK”. That’s when the relationship between “DJK”, Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Football program appeared to get complicated. Leaks started to come out. Stories floated around those same message boards and Facebook groups, Twitter and campus. And all of us joked about KF’s Dog House while making the walk to Kinnick Stadium every Saturday of the fall.

I wasn’t in the football building at that time so the only thing I know of is what I’ve read from both parties, what I know from DJK and what friends inside the Athletic Department and The Daily Iowan would talk about. At the very least, there seemed to be a constant riff between the coaching staff and the guy that would don the moniker “DJK” like it was a shield. The more Derrell Johnson-Koulianos leaned into “DJK”, the less we would hear and see of him. And the less we would hear and see of him, the more he leaned into “DJK”.

Around and around we went for three more years.

This is when Kirk Ferentz, Chris Doyle and DJK appeared to begin colliding head on. That’s also when the alleged insults, belittling, racism, oppressive antics, losing his starting role, benchings and eventual black balling started to take place... among other unverified and unproven allegations, including Kirk’s “secret relationship” with the ICPD/DEA, NFL GM’s sharing the news of blackballing, etc.

But in the moment, things appeared fishy and we all knew it. Kirk’s Doghouse only had one player in it and it was always “DJK”. And while all of us on campus knew what he and his friends were up to around town, nothing ever came out about any trouble that he was in. Maybe the staff knew. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe DJK was punished for those antics. Or maybe he just wasn’t a good... blocker?

“He’s got to improve just like everybody else,” Ferentz said of the man known as DJK. “There’s a lot of little things that he can do better. With receivers, when they make plays, it’s pretty obvious, but there are a lot of things that go on during the game that go unnoticed by the average person watching. That’s a challenge for all the guys.”

My coaching prowess ends with Madden and I’m far from questioning Kirk Ferentz’s eye, but when it came to GAME TIME, “DJK” didn’t take a play off. Having him on the sidelines was a detriment to the team. The Minnesota game in 2010 is proof. DJK was benched for... **checks notes again**... Colin Sandeman because, reasons? Iowa lost 27-24 after falling into a 10-0 hole.

I know we are literally moments away from the DJK bubble crashing down, but I also know for a fact that in that moment, some of us were so upset about the way this team seemingly slept walked through the end of the schedule (with three straight losses to Northwestern, Ohio State and Minnesota) that we were questioning (one of the many times this past decade) everything there was about Kirk Ferentz. Especially the way he was handling his star wideout and one of the guys that constantly left it all on the field.

Just look at the comment section from that game on this very site:

WE KNEW DJK WAS BEING SILENCED IN THE MOMENT AND WE HATED IT.

And despite all of it, DJK continued to make lemonade out of his lemons, tallying up catch after catch, return after return. He continued to break records on the field and in the weight room and forced his coaches’ hand. The dude was too good not to play. And everyone on campus knew it. Including Kirk. Including “DJK”.

He showed up when you needed him and none of us ever questioned that.

Again, relationships are complicated and if DJK never put himself in the precarious situation he found himself in on December 7, 2010 (saying nothing of any of the other precarious situations he put himself that we all witnessed on any given Saturday night in Iowa City), maybe things are different. Maybe DJK is a good part of our past and maybe him and Kirk Ferentz are able to put some time between them that ultimately leads to adoration.

Hell, maybe Kirk even admits at the ten year that he had no effing clue on how to coach someone like him back then and that both of them wish they had done things differently.

But, that’s unfortunately not what happened:

Johnson-Koulianos faces seven charges: four counts of possession of controlled substances, two counts of unlawful possession of prescription drugs and one count of keeping a drug house. These are all misdemeanors.
Investigators found more than $3,000 in cash, marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs in the house during the search, police said. The circumstances which prompted the search were not known Tuesday night.
Officers located a small amount of marijuana in Johnson-Koulianos’ bedroom. Upon arrest, Johnson-Koulianos told police he smokes marijuana and that he’d smoked it within the past 24 hours.
A urine test administered by arresting officers showed a preliminary positive for marijuana and cocaine, criminal complaints state. Johnson-Koulianos admitted to using cocaine after investigators found residue of the drug in his bedroom, complaints state.
Johnson-Koulianos told arresting officers that various prescription pain killers and muscle relaxers police found in his bedroom were also his, and that “he gets them from friends” and takes them without having a prescription.
Officers also reported finding “electronic media” showing Johnson-Koulianos in possession of cocaine and marijuana, complaints state.

Not great. It’s not a good look and all of the credibility and fanfare and adoration we had for him started to seep out the window. There were still some in his corner, arguing that he was just a kid (he was) that made a stupid mistake (he did) and that we should probably forgive him for it (we should) and that now more than ever, we as a community should embrace him and make sure he’s ok (we still should).

But when none of that happened and the heat started to get more dialed up against “DJK”, he fought back. And ultimately, that’s when the majority of the fanbase turned on him:

Johnson-Koulianos tweeted that he takes full blame for his mistakes at Iowa but that the truth should be told after Ferentz “demonized” his character. He alleges that Ferentz once made him wear a trash can during practice as punishment and that strength coach Chris Doyle took a picture and put it in the weight room.
Johnson-Koulianos posted a series of comments Tuesday on Twitter alleging that Ferentz discouraged NFL teams from pursuing Johnson-Koulianos in the 2011 draft.

Here’s all the receipts:

But it all seems similar, no?

Yet, CD did not care for the truth. He sought only to punish me for his ridiculous notions concerning an imaginary childhood and for his ridiculous notions on where a young, black male should come from. During a spring ball practice, where new recruits and their parents were present, CD ordered me to run around the practice field with a trash can on my head to punish me and humiliate me in front of my teammates, coaches, and recruits. In my time at Iowa and as a coach afterwards, I have never seen an athlete punished in such a demeaning way.

During my time as a Hawkeye, the fans and community (Hawkeye Nation) as well as the media all seemed to be happy to have me — but not my head coach. KF regulated what clothes I could wear. He pulled me into his office on many occasions to discuss my attire and mannerisms while out at Iowa City. While these “suggestions” were not official rules, it was an unspoken reality that I could be benched for failing to comply with KF’s demands. He instructed me to be inconspicuous. He informed me that there would be no compromise. He encouraged me to be less colorful in interviews. He told me that I would have to be more “blue-collared” if I wanted to fit in. “The less you say, the less you have to take back.”

When I did not act, dress, or talk the way he preferred, he would make up reasons to bench me for a quarter here or a quarter there. While athletes on other teams were building their stats in non-conference games, I rarely saw the field. I refused to conform my personality to KF’s standards; I refused to give the canned responses he wanted me to repeat, and for it he had me banned from speaking to the media altogether. He printed out my interviews, made notes, called me in and dissected my every word. Why was he so hell-bent on limiting my expression? I understand that every organization has its rules, but I always felt that rules were against me.

BUT JERRY HE’S LYING! WHY WOULD KIRK BLACK BALL HIM? WHAT DOES HE HAVE TO GAIN FROM THAT? HOW COULD HE SAY THAT KIRK CALLED THE POLICE TO ORCHESTRATE HIS ARREST? BECAUSE HE MAYBE DIDN’T SHAKE HIS PARENTS HANDS? COME ON!

I’ve already given in to the ICPD/DEA portion of the testimony. But the blackballing seems like...something?

Look I’m not saying nor have I ever said that everything DJK has said is 100% fact. But, what I have said and what I’m saying here is, the majority of it seems like it may be. Over a decade later Derrell Johnson-Koulianos is still telling the same exact story. Only this time, he’s not the only one. And while I understand that he probably needs an editor along with more substantial proof in terms of the ICPD/DEA piece of the story, is there not eye opening truths to the rest of what Derrell Johnson-Koulianos has been trying to tell us for the past seven years now? Especially now that we know of other stories from current and former black players alone? Are we sure that we’re comfortable living in our little bubble knowing full well that we continue to silence a guy that went through similar oppression as players that have come and gone from the Iowa program? Are we sure that we’re 100% good with just abandoning this one time great at a time like this?

More than ever, we know that a guy like DJK wasn’t supposed to survive that type of environment. It’s more clear than ever that the coaching staff allegedly did everything in their power to bend a guy like DJK to their will in hopes that he would conform.

The Pattern of Problems

This is not just a DJK thing.

This is an Iowa Football thing. We’ve all seen the stories by now and they aren’t just about one player with a big personality making bad choices.

Amani Hooker, who I believe is one of the most respected Iowa players to ever come out of this program, had a hard ass time himself... and was there one moment during his career here when you thought “wow Amani Hooker has a big personality”? NO!

Former Iowa defensive back Amani Hooker, now with the Tennessee Titans, tweeted, “I remember whenever walking into the facility it would be difficult for black players to walk around the facility and be themselves. As if the way you grew up was the wrong way or wasn’t acceptable & that you would be judge by that and it would impact playing time.”

Is there a part of this story that doesn’t fit with the rest of what these former players are saying? Is there a part of this story that we didn’t already know?

NO!

What about his relationship with Ferentz? Look, the subject of DJK’s relationship with Kirk Ferentz has been analyzed and discussed to the point that we don’t even want to talk about it anymore. As a thumbnail sketch for the uninitiated, DJK likes to talk. Ferentz didn’t particularly like some of the words that came out of his mouth. There was the infamous muzzle Ferentz put on DJK, prohibiting him from talking to the press as a senior. There was a benching for wearing sunglasses during an interview. There was a benching for a smartass remark made during practice. There was a benching for motivation. There were benchings for reasons we’ll never know. Dude was benched for his last game at Iowa. Suffice it to say, they didn’t see eye to eye. Maybe DJK should have adjusted his personality to meet Ferentz’s expectations. Maybe Ferentz was too hard on the kid. Regardless, it was a mess for three years. We love them both, but we’re sort of glad the drama’s gone.

Why are we so anti-DJK? I really don’t understand it. Because he was arrested? Because he spoke out about the program? Because he told his story and you don’t agree with it despite no proof of the contrary?

How quickly we shun someone that we were absolutely enthralled with. Stop catching touchdowns for us and telling us the program we love has glaring issues before the world is ready to hear it and your instantly outcast. Your a social pariah. I can’t harp on this enough, but for those of us on campus at the time and who saw “DJK” out in Iowa City from 2008 to 2010 (and maybe even a few times immediately after his career was over), it was something we all knew of, talked about, picked fun at, and hell sometimes were even a part of. And while he was #MPOD-ing all over the field, all of us were perfectly OK with it. More times than not, we celebrated it. We loved that DJK could be scoring touchdowns at noon and then out with us at DC’s at midnight. It was all part of his aura and persona. It was something we all celebrated in between jokes about the doghouse he was always in.

What he did on campus was no secret to anyone. And ultimately, maybe that was part of why he was benched and silenced. But there is nothing from the program stating it was because of failed drug tests or violating the student handbook policies or anything else.

Ask any one of the writers on this site and they more than likely have a DJK story to tell. I have plenty of my own. But that’s my point. These are all our stories. Why is your, my or anyone’s credibility any better or worse in this situation? I was a shithead in college too. I did some things that were against the “student handbooks code of ethics” or what have you. Does that mean I’m an untrustworthy savage that only has revenge in his blood?

Maybe! But probably not.

But like most of you, I've apologized and accepted those mistakes I made as a 20-something year old shithead. And guess what my people? Derrell Johnson-Koulianos has repeatedly accepted those sins for himself too. Maybe he’s added his own flare to it, and maybe he’s pushed some blame on others as well, but he’s accepting it and working on it and trying to get through it. He’s obviously extremely complex as a person, why is that not enough? Again, why we are so quick to turn on a once beloved Hawkeye (for the second time now) after all that’s come out recently about this program and the “Iowa Way”? Why are we comfortable with people silencing him and writing him off? Has anyone, for one single second, wondered how messed up that is? How confusing and irritating that must be for DJK? How hurtful it must be that former Iowa players from all over are finally being listened to about a program that has a lot to fix and fast, but his story is relegated to the trash because he’s a liar?

WHO SAYS? What judge and jury appointed DJK the Chicken Little of Iowa Football?

Are we just cool with cancelling DJK because he needs (and probably always has needed) an editor desperately (don’t we all)? Because he needs someone to tell him, “Chill with the DEA stuff unless you got proof... and if you got proof, show us. Until then, just stick with the facts that we can justify and it will help your case”? Because he used and got caught with drugs? Because he was arrested (remember, all of the charges were dropped but one) for living with a guy that was dealing? Because he talked to a few GM’s and they allegedly were told to “stay away” from him by his coaches and he told us about it? Because he was the first one to tell us about some injustices inside the program but threatened to do so in a book that we all thought was one hell of an hysterical concept?

How dare you tell us your truth if that truth speaks out about the very coach we were questioning in the first place...then and now.

This is complicated. And I get it. But nobody has given me a reason for one second to just write DJK off. Especially not him. Not then and not now. There is nuance here. There is grey area here. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t truth.

I’m not asking you to believe EVERYTHING Derrell Johnson-Koulianos has ever said. If I’m being honest, it’s hard for me to get past the ICPD/DEA stuff and maybe even the NFL stuff too. There’s just nothing of any real substance there that could even push me off the fence I so lovingly ride on. But after the light that has recently been turned on inside the Iowa Football program, I’m not going to dismiss the rest of what Derrell Johnson-Koulianos has to say anymore. There are obviously truths here, truths that we saw when he was being touted as a Top-25 player of the Ferentz era oh so long ago.

Can’t we all agree that something happened here and while DJK is not blameless, neither is Kirk Ferentz or Chris Doyle? Are we not able to see the forest through the trees here?

I know that DJK has said that he’s moved on and he’s happy with his life and I hope to God that’s true. I hope him and his family are healthy. I hope that he’s mentally in a good place. I hope that he means it when he says that he’s coaching to use his “life’s experiences to make a difference to develop young men the right way”. Icarus has a lot of value to add to young adults lives. There is a tremendous value in that.

But this is where I don’t believe him either. I believe there is a piece of him still missing in Iowa City. And I think we’re keeping him from finding it; from finally closing that chapter of his life. From fully moving on.

I’m sure you all can see that too. Why else are we still talking about this? Why else would he bring it up? He wants to be a Hawkeye. He IS A HAWKEYE!

We should all look to the past, to the memories, to the fandom you once had for Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and realize that we’re silencing, berating, picking fun at a guy that walked into this program extremely complex (just based on his background) and grew even more complex as success came his way. Everything that has happened to him from the moment he was born to the fall of 2010 was more adversity than some of us face in a lifetime. I want to know if we’re all comfortable shunning a guy who was at the very least oppressed by this program from being himself. I want to know if you’re OK with pushing away a guy that we wanted to be around, hands down. A guy that we loved watching every Saturday.

Or rather, can we find it in ourselves to give him the chance to show us the loyal, personable and inspiring person he can be. And maybe, just maybe, we can all work this thing out and allow one of our best wide receivers of all time, back into the family... even if he is just a little bit dramatic, a little bit eccentric and a little bit extra.

Or maybe I’m just the optimistic fool destined to be burned again.

Time will tell, I suppose. But I’m ready to make DJK a Hawkeye again and I’m willing to listen.