Another week, another Iowa football player announces he is leaving the program.
Well, it hasn’t been THAT bad..but that’s three Iowa players announcing their intentions to transfer out of the program inside of the past two weeks. AJ Derby now joins the list of former Hawkeyes, along with Marcus Coker and Mika’il McCall.
Here was what Kirk Ferentz and Derby had to say in the Monday press release:
“A.J. has asked for his release, which has been granted,” said Ferentz. “We are sorry to see A.J. leave the program. He has been a positive member of our team and a pleasure to coach over the past two years. We wish him the best as he moves forward with his career.”
A.J. Derby added the following: “I would like to thank the University of Iowa and football coaches for the opportunity. Unfortunately, I don’t feel this is the best fit for me personally to reach my goals as a student-athlete. I especially wish my brother (Zach) the best of luck in the coming year. I will miss all of my teammates, family and friends who have supported me here. Good luck to everybody. Once a hawk, always a hawk.”
The part where Derby says Iowa is not the best fit for him to reach his goal as a student athlete is the telling part, at least to me. This is my opinion and nothing more, but my guess is that Derby thinks he is a quarterback and is not ready to give up on that dream.
If he does believe that and doesn’t want to give up on that dream, then good for him in pursuing something he truly believes in.
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Derby made the move to linebacker from quarterback during the 2011 season, a couple of weeks after he was arrested on an alcohol related issues. He was suspended for two games and upon his return, it was off to the defense.
This was a move that caught his teammates by surprise, as Derby said he showed up to the linebackers meeting in late October and his teammates wondered if he knew where he was. Derby also told reporters that Ferentz approached him about this move in late October and it was the first time he had considered it, and that it was not an easy decision.
You can read more of Derby’s comments from that late October time frame at this link.
More of my opinion here, but I am wondering if Derby felt like he didn’t have much ground to stand on as a quarterback at Iowa following his arrest and accepted the position change request. He certainly didn’t have the moral high ground, as quarterbacks are supposed to be leaders on and off the field and an arrest in the middle of the season isn’t a ringing endorsement.
He also had a chance to watch Jake Rudock in practice and Rudock’s skill set is much more in line with what Iowa has traditionally put on the field in the Ferentz era. Rudock’s skills were already at a higher level than Derby’s (by my estimation) and Derby still had a ‘baseball’ style throwing motion this fall; an over the top delivery that can really work against a quarterback.
Again, those are just my opinions. If Derby winds up transferring to another school and winds up playing a position anywhere but quarterback, then we’ll need to reconsider everything I just tossed out. If he goes somewhere else to play quarterback, my guess is that he just fashions himself as a college quarterback, knew that wasn’t going to happen at Iowa (where his brother is a tight end and where his father starred at linebacker in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s) and felt like now was the time to leave.
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If he goes to the FCS level, he can play right away and would have three years of eligibility. If he transfers to an FBS program, he’ll sit out next year and still have two to play.
9:45 PM UPDATE: HawkCentral.com reported Monday evening that Derby is likely headed to Coffeyville, KS, a Junior College, and will play quarterback. This reinforces everything I wrote earlier, as he wants to show colleges what he can do as a quarterback in order to have a ‘pick’ of schools next December as a recruitable athlete. In fact, if this comes to pass and he doesn’t transfer directly to an FCS or FBS program, it’s the ‘smoking gun’ that leads you to realize he thinks he can be an FBS level quarterback.
You can’t begrudge anyone for chasing a dream. I’d also speculate that this isn’t a decision that Derby just arrived at. I think he does love Iowa, as the program has meant a lot to his family. He didn’t quit in the middle of the season when he realized he would not be able to have a shot at his goal of playing quarterback for the school he loved. He stayed, played special teams and was available to play linebacker in the event of emergency injury situations. I wish him the best of luck and it will be interesting to see how he does as a college quarterback.