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Pat Harty: Loveless can’t forget his spring game moment

[ 0 ] April 25, 2014 |

Derrius Loveless is usually too busy living his life to ask himself the what-if question.

But every now and then, especially during the spring, he’ll wonder what he could’ve accomplished as an Iowa football player if his career hadn’t been derailed by academic problems.

The former receiver from Waterloo East High School showed flashes of his potential in college, the highlight being his performance in the 1986 spring game in which Loveless caught 10 passes for 143 yards against a formidable Iowa defense.

“Twenty-eight years,” Loveless said of how long it’s been since that special day. “I actually still have people ask me about that. Every once in a while I have to reflect back to that day and tell people about it. It’s kind of funny.”

The current Iowa team will conclude spring practice Saturday with an open practice and a scrimmage at Kinnick Stadium. It’s not the same setup as when Loveless played in an actual intrasquad game in 1986, but there is an opportunity for players to seize the moment.

Spring is the time when many players show the first signs of blossoming into something special.

Sadly, for Loveless, his breakout performance at the 1986 spring game would be his last as a Hawkeye. He learned shortly before the start of the 1986 season as a junior that he was academically ineligible, his grade-point average falling just short of the minimum requirement.

Loveless never played again for the Hawkeyes, his vast potential wasted during the glory years under former coach Hayden Fry. Loveless was expected to combine with Quinn Early to give Iowa an explosive one-two punch at receiver, which is a rarity for the Hawkeyes, but it never materialized.

Early battled with injuries during the 1986 season, but he stayed healthy throughout the 1987 season and became a star, catching 63 passes for 1,004 yards and 10 touchdowns. Early then went on to have a successful career in the NFL.

Loveless was part of Iowa’s 1984 recruiting class that also featured All-America tight end Marv Cook, all-Big Ten quarterback Chuck Hartlieb and all-Big Ten offensive lineman Bob Kratch. Loveless came highly regarded from high school as a 6-foot-1 receiver who could run the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds and make defenders miss in the open field.

But he faced an uncertain future after his Hawkeye career fizzled. Loveless was at a crucial turning point in his life and it was his decision about what direction to take.

Loveless could’ve been bitter or made excuses for why he failed as an Iowa football player. But, thankfully, for him and for his family and friends, he chose a more constructive route of trying to better himself.

Part of the reason Loveless struggled with academics in college is that he couldn’t stay focused. It was later discovered that Loveless had Attention Deficit Disorder.

“It was hard for me to focus at that particular time,” Loveless said. “But with a little bit of treatment, you come out of it, you move on and you progress.”

Loveless, 47, is proud to say that he has worked as a salesman for Toyota of Iowa City for nearly two decades. And he is proud of his children, which include daughter Jessica Gehrke and son Derrick Loveless.

“I’ve been here for almost 20 years and everything is good,” Derrius said. “I’ve been blessed, to be quite frank.”

His daughter, Jessica, was a multisport star athlete at West High who went to play volleyball and compete in track and field at Florida International, while Derrick was a star football player and baseball player at Solon. Derrick now plays professional baseball as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays’ Class A team in Lansing, Mich.

Derrius Loveless never has hidden his past from his children. He wants them to learn from his mistakes and from his failures in order to avoid repeating them.

His performance in the 1986 spring game comes up in conversation with his children every so often as sort of a reminder and a warning from Derrius about what he lost.

“I do remember it because it’s one of the things I use as power of influence with my own children,” Derrius said. “So they understand how important things are and how important studies are.

“These are the things I can’t turn around and bring back. So it kind of sticks in your mind no matter what. And then when you get asked about it, you reflect on it again and it just becomes a conversation piece, to be quite honest.”

Derrius Loveless deserves praise for not succumbing to his disappointment. He turned one of the lowest points in his life into a source of inspiration for him and for his children. He was knocked down, but he refused to stay down or fester in his misery.

And although he doesn’t dwell on his past, Derrius sometimes still wonders how different his life would be if he had stayed eligible and finished his career at Iowa. He wonders how good he could’ve been as a receiver and where his talent would’ve taken him.

But Derrius takes comfort in knowing that he has much for which to be thankful, most notably his family.

“Yeah, I do reflect back,” Derrius said. “And then I move on and realize the best thing about it is I have my kids and I have my sanity in my life and it just wasn’t meant to be. But my kids are doing extremely well, and that’s all I’m blessed with.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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