I, frankly, have more important things to worry about than Tuesday’s arrest of Iowa wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on multiple drug-related charges.
Early Tuesday morning, my wife’s father died after an extended illness. Bob Hinman of Klemme in north-central Iowa was a genuinely fine man. He was a farmer. Which is another way of saying he was a hard-worker. He was a good and loving husband and father. He and his wife, Carol, instilled great values in my wife that I see and hear in her every day. He was smart and funny. He loved to read, and he was open-minded.
He served in the U.S. Army. He was a good citizen, a good friend to many. He was proud of where he came from, the open, windy farm country of northern Iowa. He was the kind of salt-of-the-earth person you like to think this country is built on.
Late Tuesday night, feeling emotionally wrung out (but nothing compared to what my wife, mother-in-law and brother-in-law experienced this day and the week ahead), I heard the news that Johnson-Koulianos had gone to jail in Iowa City.
I’m sure every one of you know people like my father-in-law and my dad, who died five years ago, people who worked damn hard their whole lives to provide for their families. Then there’s this guy who was on Iowa’s football team, with the athleticism and football skills to fly through life if he worked anywhere near as hard as those people you’ve known, and if he steered away from doing stupid things …
Last April after Iowa’s open scrimmage that capped spring practice, I asked Ferentz to consider making Johnson-Koulianos available to the media for his senior season. He said he’d have a talk with the player about it. You know how that went. Johnson-Koulianos had a very verbose Media Day appearance, and that was it for the season.
In June, however, I sent Ferentz an e-mail asking if I could interview Johnson-Koulianos for a preseason magazine SourceMedia published on the Iowa football team. Apparently that was all it took, to ask.
So I went to Johnson-Koulianos’ house, on a quiet Iowa City street not far from downtown. Neighbor kids passed by, waving at the player and getting a wave and a greeting in exchange. It seemed like a sanctuary from the public eye. How wrong I was.
It turned out to be the same house the Iowa City Police Department searched on Tuesday, finding cocaine, marijuana, and various prescription drugs for which he had no prescriptions.
No, I saw absolutely no evidence whatsoever of any sort of drug use. Zero. At the time, I’m pretty sure he didn’t have Brady Johnson as his roommate. Johnson also was arrested on an assortment of drug-related charges Tuesday.
I spent about 90 minutes with Johnson-Koulianos that day, interviewing him on a variety of subjects. Mostly, I sat and listened to him give me a narrative he clearly had spent some time thinking about beforehand. Much of the interview was about his childhood and where he came from. He was the child of a teen mother who left him to his own devices, and the boy bounced all over Youngstown, Ohio until he was 10. That’s when he was taken into into the home of Peter and Lauren Koulianos, who gave him a stable home life that he hadn’t known until then. He went from having nothing to lacking for nothing.
He switched back and forth in the interview from ultra-confident to humble. He gave, in no uncertain terms, praise to his teammates and coaches. One of his walls was covered with pictures and newspaper clippings of former and present Hawkeyes.
He also was very enamored with the idea of becoming Iowa’s all-time leader in receptions and reception yardage, and stayed enamored with those things after claiming the records, as any of the thousands of people who followed his Facebook page could attest. He certainly didn’t lack for ego. When I wanted to take a couple of snapshots of him to put on this blog, he wanted to look at the photos and tell me which one I should use. The right pose was important to him.
He told me that I could get the first interview with him post-bowl game if I would do it “Epic. ’60 Minutes’ style.” I should have gotten that in writing. It truly would be epic now.
He was a big kid in many ways, I thought, but also very intelligent in many ways. Funny, engaging, very interested in music and media. I’ve heard many accounts about how well he has treated Hawkeye fans, how good he’s been with kids.
But he had dust-ups with coaches throughout his career, things undoubtedly caused from being head-strong. They cost him playing time here and there over the years, which was probably a punishment that hurt him more than anything. He didn’t start the final game of his college career, at Minnesota on Nov. 27, for undisclosed reasons. Then he went and scored two touchdowns, anyhow, one on a kickoff return. Which was fitting, really, the best and worst of his career up to that point, all represented in one game.
Ferentz said it was because Colin Sandeman “had a better week of practice.” Johnson-Koulianos told someone it was because of a flippant remark he made to Ferentz on the day before the game. That’s small potatoes now.
My wife and I have a college freshman son who lives in Iowa City. I called him Tuesday night. After making plans on how and when to head north for a funeral, I told him about Johnson-Koulianos’ arrest and why it happened. You hope it registers, the consequences of doing illegal, stupid things.
I’ll be back here later in the week. Like I said, I’ve got more important things to worry about right now.