Sometime near the start of his climb up Iowa’s receiving charts, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos looked at the top of the lists and studied the landscape.
He familiarized himself with the names and numbers, learned about Kevin Kasper and Tim Dwight and took aim at 157 catches and 2,271 yards.
“I watch their films all the time, and those guys were exceptional,” Johnson-Koulianos said in August. “I have a lot of respect for them. … To even be in a position to pass those guys is overwhelming.”
Johnson-Koulianos topped Dwight’s yardage record Oct. 16 at Michigan, becoming Iowa’s all-time leader on his third touchdown catch of the day. He matched Kasper’s reception mark last week against Wisconsin, and he could get his hands on a few more records before his career with the Hawkeyes is complete.
For the past four seasons, Johnson-Koulianos has been durable and productive on the field and charismatic and bold off it.
“He’s one of a kind,” Iowa running back Adam Robinson said.
The Hawkeyes have learned to count on the unexpected from DJK — from his flair for the big play to his habit of randomly dropping down and doing push-ups.
“He always does it,” receiver Marvin McNutt said. “You get used to it. That’s Derrell’s personality, that’s him. Maybe at first when I got here I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ Now it’s like one of those things your brother does that you get used to.
“I’ve been over to his house a few times. All of a sudden you see him drop and start doing push-ups while you’re in the middle of a conversation and he still keeps the conversation going without missing a breath.”
DJK’s career took off during an ABC prime time broadcast in 2007 when he punctuated his first Big Ten game with a one-handed touchdown catch against Wisconsin, but there was a pattern of unpredictability early in his career.
He caught six passes for 68 yards and a touchdown against Indiana in his first start and followed that up with one catch for 10 yards the next week at Penn State. He didn’t register a reception in a double-overtime win against Michigan State and caught eight passes for 119 yards the next week against Northwestern.
“My biggest complaint about his early career was just inconsistency, but that’s part of being a young guy,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s playing a lot more consistent now. As a result, his numbers are a lot better and his production has been a lot better, and that’s what you hope for with every player.”
The production has increased each season as the converted high school quarterback became a more polished college receiver. He caught 38 passes for 482 yards as a freshman, made 44 grabs for 639 yards as a sophomore and had 45 receptions for 750 yards last season. He’s on track to pass all of those figures this season.
“I think he does a great job of running really good routes,” quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. “When he does that, it’s easy for him to get open because he’s so athletic.”
“He’s very talented,” Ferentz said. “To me, he’s playing better football now than he’s ever played. He’s moved himself in the area where (NFL) people have to look at him.”
There are still a few records within reach for Johnson-Koulianos. He could become the first player in school history to lead the Hawkeyes in receiving four times. He needs three touchdown catches to tie the single-season record set by Mo Brown in 2002 when he had 11 scoring receptions. DJK has a shot at 21 career touchdown catches, which would match Dwight and Danan Hughes for tops in Iowa history.
“At the end of the day, I think any coach hopes at the end of a career a player is a better player and a better person, and he’s certainly demonstrating both of those,” Ferentz said. “He’s on track to graduate in December. That’s a huge plus. My hopes are he has his degree in December and breaks every record he’s capable of (breaking). I don’t know how many more are out there for him, but that would be a great thing.”
Reach Andy Hamilton at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football