Former Iowa wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos worked out last week for three NFL scouts at Fit2Live, an Iowa City training facility. DJK was a four-year starter and is Iowa’s all-time leader in catches (173) and receiving yards (2,616). He’s third in touchdown receptions (17) and fifth in all-purpose yards (4,231). He led Iowa in receptions for three straight years and was named first-team all-Big Ten by league coaches in 2010.
DJK had plenty more to say (as expected) about his career potential, the 2010 Iowa football collapse, his relationship with Iowa coaches, his drug arrest and how he felt to get left out of Iowa’s pro day. Here’s a partial transcript of my interview with DJK on March 21:
Where are you training this offseason?
“I have a place down in the city (Chicago) that I stay at on weekends and during the week, I have a host family in the suburbs that are amazing. I’m training at EFT six days a week, Monday through Saturday, with my trainer Elias Karras. They mentor me for three months — everything I do, everywhere I go from a mental standpoint workout, physical, what to say, what to do. I’m just trying to get back to where I was. I’m not going to let it bring me down. My spirits … I love where I’m at.”
On his feelings toward the Iowa football program:
“I’m always going to be a Hawkeye. You’ve got your haters and lovers. I love the people who support me. I love the people who don’t support me. I’m trying to get them to support me like they used to. All’s well. I’m healthy. I ran my best time (March 21) and a couple of teams came. I’m proud of the guys who worked out at Iowa. I heard some good results. I’m cheering for those guys. I want to see Ricky (Stanzi); I know there’s a lot of rumors that he’s going to be one of the top candidates at the quarterback position. I think all’s well as far as the senior class and the guys entering the draft this year. I think we’ll have a good showing at this year’s draft. Hopefully if the NFLPA gets everything figured out, we can move forward and play the best game in the world.”
On not working out at the Iowa complex for pro day?
“It breaks my heart every time a situation occurs when they don’t make me a part of what’s going on. Nobody’s to blame but me. I understood that from the day it happened. I understand that. I didn’t have the best relationship with the people in charge to begin with. So the fact it’s no surprise to me. While I still support Coach (Kirk) Ferentz and the university and (Iowa Athletics Director) Gary Barta and (Associate Athletics Director) Fred Mims and the football team and Coach (Chris) Doyle, I support those guys 100 percent, you’ll never hear me talk bad about them. I talk to people every day out there in the community. They ask me questions about Iowa. I’m like, you’ve got to send your kid to Iowa. That facility is it’s going to guide you in the right way. They did so much for me, and I just kind of let them down there in the end. But I loved it when I was here. I never stopped loving it. I’ll be at every game I can, supporting in any way I can If I can financially give back some day, I’m going to be the biggest supporter in any way I can. It is what it is but I love my program, I love my school and I love it any way I can.”
On what he remembers from his arrest on Dec. 7 or if he suspected his relationship with Coach Ferentz was on the rocks:
“I woke up on a December Tuesday and found cops in my living room with speculation that my roommate was selling drugs, and I kind of got carried under that. I was completely focused playing football. We were doing well. We were having a good year. For the most part we kind of went downhill there. Aside of normal incidents that happened — coach and player — every day but nothing significant you could point at it as this is a sign that (stuff) is going down, not at all. I just think, I wish we could have finished out better. I wish that incident never would have happened. Had I been at class or something, that would have never happened. I would have been working out with my guys (March 21) and my university.”
Note: Johnson-Koulianos was arrested Dec. 7 for four counts of possession of controlled substances, two counts of unlawful possession of prescription drugs and one count of keeping a drug house — all misdemeanors.. He pleaded guilty to one count of marijuana possession in exchange for a deferred judgement. He paid a $315 fine and submitted to a substance abuse evaluation.
On Iowa fans’ reaction after his arrest:
“I’m impressed with the fan base. They want to see me win now even more than they did before. That shows that you’re human. I’m guilty. I felt like maybe I could take a few chances; I’m having so much success. It’s a humbling experience. I’m back at square one. I’m refocused, and I’m more motivated than ever. God did it for a reason, and he did it to the right person for a reason.”
Has he met with Coach Ferentz since his arrest?
“I haven’t spoken with him, not one word. Not a single word. I reached out. I sent him a letter. I’ve had people close to him inform him. I’ve called to him, the facility, the Jacobson building and I’ve gotten no reply. I had to reach out. What could it hurt? I still love the program, I care very much about what they’re doing and their success and Coach Ferentz and what he’s doing, the program he’s built. I’m very let down in myself that I gave that program a black eye. But I hope that people understand that there’s nobody still in the program right now that’s more devoted to winning ball games and in doing things right.”
Note: Ferentz confirmed last week that he has not spoken with Johnson-Koulianos since the incident. When asked if there’s a chance at reconciling his relationship with Johnson-Koulianos, Ferentz said, “There is a chance for anything in life. Right now I’m focused on my job.”
How did you find out you weren’t playing in the Insight Bowl?
“It was honestly through the media. Coach indicated in some interview that I read that I was no longer part of any team activities. Shortly after (I thought) there’d be some type of, reach out in some form just to let me know and close things out, but there wasn’t. Once I let the smoke clear and got my legal situation figured out, I thought that maybe we could move forward and have some discussion. I reached out, got no reply and that’s where it is today. I’m doing this thing on my own, that’s the way it is.”
On trying to reach the NFL on his own:
“I love football more than anything that I do, but there’s a lot of things that I love that I’m going to be successful in, either way. The grind is what I do. It’s kind of who I am. The thing is, my whole life has never been, here it is. Go with it. If it was like that then I’d find a way to screw it up by getting arrested and making it hard for myself. It’s so different than it was before, and I just want to thank everyone out there that supports me and continues to support me and know that I love them. And to the people who don’t, I’m trying to learn to love them but until then, I’m going to keep grinding.”
Did you plead guilty to one drug possession charge just to put it behind you?
“I’m not talking about that. Good try, though.”
What happened to the Iowa team down the stretch that lost its final three regular-season games?
“I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I think that guys were just as motivated as they were in camp. I think guys went all in, and it was even more devastating that we kind of refocused ourselves and we still couldn’t win. Like, what the hell is going on? I know from my standpoint, I took every game like I’ve got to win this for my team. I continued to do it as hard as I could. For whatever reason, which is still a question mark in my head, we couldn’t finish the season up there. It’s a mystery to me and that’s what’s going to happen. You never know which way the ball is going to bounce. In 09, it bounced our way. In the latter portion of the (2010) year, it certainly didn’t bounce our way.
What did you think about the bowl performance in a 27-24 win against Missouri?
“I think Iowa did what they do best. You give them a month to prepare for a bowl game, and they’re going to shut your offense down. That’s not to say they shut down Blaine Gabbert, who still had like 490 (434) passing yards, but they got it done. (Cornerback Micah) Hyde had that interception there at the end. It was unbelievable. I fell out of my chair. I was so excited. But when I did, it still hit me like, I still love this team. I love this program. It was such a relief because it came off of what I did (the arrest), what Adam (Robinson, who was arrested for marijuana possession) did and here it is, the nail in the coffin in this game. They made it happen. I was so proud of the program.”
On what he knows about the situation involving 13 players stricken with rhabdomyolysis after a workout in January:
“I know exactly what went down there, but I would never reveal those details because it’s not my place. I wasn’t involved. To comment on it, in my situation, I’ve got enough grief as is. I don’t want to get into somebody else’s grief.”