The thought raced through his head, circling around and around for a time as Derrell Johnson-Koulianos pondered the uncertainty of his football future.
Did he throw it all away — his ties to the Iowa program, the opportunity to train for the NFL with his college teammates, the chance to hear his name called in the draft and potentially a healthy, six-figure signing bonus — in December when he was arrested on an assortment of drug-related charges?
“That’s run laps through my mind for a long time,” he said. “I don’t know why, but it’s very bizarre the way my brain works. I can’t get past the fact that it was a mistake. It was a mistake, and after the day it happened I moved forward like I felt I almost needed something to happen to me to re-humble me and refocus me.”
No, he wouldn’t have chosen this. He wouldn’t have picked something that would tarnish his legacy as the school’s all-time leading receiver, something that would make him an outcast with the program and damage his stock for this week’s NFL draft.
Ultimately, Johnson-Koulianos pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana and the other charges were dismissed as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
But erasing character questions from the minds of NFL decision makers hasn’t been as simple. Johnson-Koulianos said the popular question from team officials is: Was this a pattern of behavior or an isolated incident?
“I think mostly they want to hear it was an isolated incident and that’s not who I am,” Johnson-Koulianos said.
“I just carried on with what I’ve been my whole life. I’m not one for trouble or that kind of drama. Just cut out the nonsense, so to speak. I train every day, I keep a positive outlook, and I just don’t do what I did to get myself in a predicament. I’m the caring, loving, high-spirited go-getter that I was my whole life before this.”
By most accounts, Johnson-Koulianos played his way into the middle rounds of the NFL draft during his career with the Hawkeyes. He was productive and durable. He was adept at finding an opening in coverages, beating some defenders with athleticism and others with savvy.
Johnson-Koulianos led Iowa in receiving in each of his first three seasons and broke school career records for receptions and receiving yards as a senior.
But in the wake of his arrest in December, two analysts said they expected he would not get selected in this week’s seven-round draft.
“He was ho-hum (in February) at the NFLPA game,” said Wes Bunting, the director of college scouting for the National Football Post. “I’d say he’s a mid-round talent, but because of the character concerns, it’s up to a team. Is this guy worth the risk or would you rather go with a guy with a cleaner past? Personally, I wouldn’t draft him. I’d go the free agent route, but he’s somebody who could do himself a lot of good going to the UFL, playing there and developing.”
Johnson-Koulianos said last week he doesn’t expect to get drafted. He said he’s hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
“Whether I would’ve been a first-round pick, a seventh-round pick, a free agent, if I get on a team I’m going to perform the same way I would if I was (picked) first, if I was last, if I was a free agent,” he said. “I’m going to do what I do and make plays. It’s just a matter of when and where.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football