Thursday, 19 January 2012

Alouettes Take Chance on Ex-Iowa Star

Last week, I decided to sift through the Alouettes current roster on their team site. As I was scrolling through the names, I noticed some new additions. In-particular, one name stood out, former Iowa Hawkeyes receiver, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.

At first, I had to do a double take to make sure I was clearly reading it correctly. Once I digested the name, I remembered to myself reading an article on him late in the 2010 calendar year. Upon seeing the name again, I wanted to verify his story because of what transpired with him at Iowa University.

For those who do not know the story of this young man, he grew up in the tough blue collar town of Youngstown, Ohio, where they have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. In 2006, he was heralded as one of Ohio’s best high school senior football players who committed to the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Throughout his time at Iowa, he was considered to be a future NFL prospect. He flashed his God-given talent on the football field with game changing plays, such as in 2009, where in a hostile road game against Ohio State he returned a 99 yard kickoff for a touchdown. In his senior season, he had amassed 10 touchdowns receptions, and at the time held the Hawkeyes record in receptions, and receiving yards.

However, on December 7th, 2010, at his apartment, he was arrested on serious multiple drug charges. Immediately thereafter, Hawkeyes, head coach Kirk Ferentz suspended him, thus ending his collegiate career.

Shortly afterwards, in January, Johnson-Koulianos plead guilty to a marijuana charge, that resulted in the other charges being dropped, one year of self-probation, and a fine.

I tried to reach out to Mr. Johnson-Koulianos through his Twitter account (@DJKoulianos), and Facebook page, but unfortunately I did not receive a reply to my question on why he signed with the Alouettes.

I did contact the Hawkeyes Athletic Department, and they were trying to accommodate my interview request with one of their coaches. However, due to their busy schedule being on the recruiting trail, it would have been a while before I would be able converse with them. But, from reading various articles, there may have been past issues with Ferentz and Johnson-Koulianos. According to what was mentioned, Ferentz preached a team first mentality, and did not really enjoy Johnson-Koulianos’ colourful personality. As a result, after the arrest, Iowa distanced themselves from him.

Finally, I sent an e-mail to the Alouettes, inquiring if there was a statement about his signing. There reply was that he signed in the middle of December.

In reading an online article written by Scott Miller of The Daily Iowan, it seemed that Johnson-Koulianos was destined for the NFL. It came as a complete shock to the entire Hawkeye nation that he was arrested on such heavy drug charges on what police allegedly found in his apartment.

During his time at Iowa, he was well liked in the community, a player with a big personality, he always took the time out of his day to converse with the many fans that adored and looked up to him.

With Johnson-Koulianos trying his luck up north, he will be facing some stiff competition in camp at the receiver position. Already, the team can pencil in Jamel Richardson, S.J. Green, and Brian Bratton as locks to be the starters for the first week of the season.

Factor the uncertainty of Kerry Watkins future with the team. Brandon London, who just signed a contract extension, will assuredly get his fair amount of repetitions. Bo Bowling will be battling for a back-up position. I have yet to include the Canadian content of Danny Desriveaux, and the potential re-signing of Eric Deslauriers into the mix.

Johnson-Koulianos will have his work cut out for him. He needs to rebuild his image that has been tarnished in the last 13 months. But if he looks at how Marc Trestman has been able to revitalize careers (see Tim Tebow), he should take every word he preaches to heart. Having an ally such as the Alouettes head coach could pay dividends for a player still young enough to realize his NFL dreams. But could he conform to the Alouettes way of handling himself in a first class manner on and off the field?

Furthermore, with the potential scenario of Trestman being lured back to the NFL, he could be his meal ticket where he might bring the former Hawkeye with him wherever he goes, or put in a good word for him to potential suitors.

Heading into June, his focus in training camp should be trying to make a good impression to the coaches in hopes of cracking the Alouettes roster loaded with CFL talent at the receiver position.

However, off field, some have considered Montreal to be the Las Vegas of Canada, with plenty of temptations. To the credit of the entire team, no one has been in trouble with the law (knock on wood).

But Montreal is a long way from Iowa, and we have heard apparent stories of athletes being engulfed by the city’s social scene. Could Johnson-Koulianos keep a straight path and focus on what he loves most, which is football? Or, could his personality outweigh his on-field ability and handcuff him from reaching his star potential?

Right now, I am sure he is thanking God, his family members, and those who have had strong faith in him in getting this opportunity. The question that remains, could he shed the flawed image, and turn the page to a new chapter?

*Note*: As of this morning, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos has signed with the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League. He is currently on the Alouettes roster. I have inquired with the media relations department on whether or not he will be apart of the team.

You can follow me on Twitter @MoeKhan19

You can listen to me every Friday morning on The Midnight Snack from midnight to 2am, every Tuesday night on Gamepoints, and various show on TSN Radio 990.

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