Posted by: marcmwm | August 20, 2008

For starters: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos . . .

Forget a career as a mere football analyst on ESPN, DJK should have his own gameshow.

The guy is more personable than Wink Martindale. He’s got more panache than Bob Barker. He makes Chuck Woolery look like Tom Foolery.

I’m not sure DJK (that’s the nickname I’m going with here, way easier on the keyboard) will ever meet the expectations blown out of proportion for him by ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, but he showed a lot of talent last season. Jon Miller, who hosts a talkshow on Des Moines radio station, KXNO, said DJK has a natural feel for the return game, a la Tim Dwight. I can totally see that.

You have to like where the wideouts are headed, with first-year coach Erik Campbell bringing a fresh look to the group.

You don’t have to like the early-season injury bug that has settled in. WR Andy Brodell (back), WR Trey Stross (hamstring) and TE Tony Moeaki (broken foot) all missed last Saturday’s scrimmage. Moeaki might miss the opener or longer. He had surgery to have a screw inserted.

On the bright side, that leaves a lot of PT up for grabs.

Iowa Hawkeyes: Name recognition

By Marc Morehouse
Photo

(Brian Ray/The Gazette)
Iowa wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (15) poses for a photo during the team’s media day on Aug. 4. A man of many nicknames, DJK is looking to improve on his first season at Iowa.

Only a sophomore, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos leads the Hawkeyes in nicknames. It’s not even close. “DJK” is running up the score.

That’s the quick version fans have globbed onto, “DJK.” Some teammates call him “Revenue-Rell” because he has the type of talent to put fans in the stands. “JK,” “D-John,” “D-John-Kool” and “Koolio” are in play.

“It’s crazy. It’s been that way since I was a little boy,” the wide receiver said. “It’s been just nicknames. For some reason people feel like I need a nickname. My first name is just not enough.”

And, as it turns out, neither was his last name.

This will be Johnson-Koulianos’ second year as a wide receiver for the Hawkeyes. True and red-shirt freshmen aren’t allowed to talk to the media, so Iowa’s media day on Aug. 4 was essentially his coming out party.

It was the first time Iowa’s leading receiver (38 catches, 482 yards and two TDs) from ’07 had a voice in his story.

Last season, we learned that Johnson-Koulianos was adopted. He came from a “tough” home in Campbell, Ohio, near Youngstown. More and more, he started spending time at the home of his lifelong friend, Stephen Koulianos. As his home life deteriorated, he eventually moved in with the Koulianoses.

By the time Derrell was in high school, he lived with Tony and Lauren Koulianos and their three children. The adoption became official when Derrell turned 18.

“Certain things happened in his life with his family and mom … but we’re very, very happy,” Lauren Koulianos said last fall. “He’s a great kid, an awesome kid.

“Derrell’s life was probably a little bit tougher than average. He was an only child. That’s why he was always here. Through circumstances and choices his mom made, he ended up with us.”

Understandably, Johnson-Koulianos didn’t want to get into the details of his previous home life.

“I feel like what’s happened to me happened for a reason,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “I’m blessed for what happened to me. I’m just thankful. Everyone has a different story and that’s mine.”

Johnson-Koulianos doesn’t talk details, but he also doesn’t quake. He is an excellent storyteller, with an impeccable sense of timing, great humor and a touch of light drama. He was a highlight reel of quotes during the hourlong session on media day.

Thanks to ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, “DJK” came to Iowa with mountainous expectations. In an interview during Big Ten media days before the ’06 season, Herbstreit bragged up Johnson-Koulianos during an interview. At one point, Herbstreit said “DJK” was the best player coming out of Ohio in ’06.

“We like to call that hype,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “Most people, most players don’t ask for it. No one ever asks for hype. But I know one thing, when there is hype, it motivates you. It sets a spark under you like you’ve got to go, you’ve got to do it.”

Herbstreit’s comments launched an instant Internet legend. “DJK” was probably the only Hawkeye to have his own “stat board” posts on the messageboards last season.

“An Internet legend, I don’t know if I’m excited about that,” Johnson-Koulianos said, “I’d rather be an on-the-field legend, but you’ve got to start somewhere I guess. As far as that goes, that’s just the fans. Fans are going to be fans. Fans are going to be fans no matter where you go.”

After 13 years at Michigan, Erik Campbell is in his first season as Iowa’s receivers coach. Johnson-Koulianos has embraced his new coach. He veered away from cliches when the topic came up.

“Coach Campbell is a blessing,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “I wouldn’t say in disguise, he’s a blessing every day. Every day I talk to him, everything the man says makes more sense to me than just about anything I’ve ever heard from a coaching standpoint.”

Johnson-Koulianos’ ease before the state’s media speaks to a happy home in Ohio, where a kid embraced a chance to have a life. Too strong? Dramatic? Those are pretty much his words.

“If it weren’t for my mom and dad, I definitely wouldn’t be standing here giving you this interview,” he said. “They changed my life in a huge way. They steered me in a direction where I had no other choice but to go toward success.

“I work hard in the classroom and on the field so I can see their faces. That’s satisfaction enough for me. Nothing is more satisfying.”

It’s media day and it’s “best foot forward” time, but you can see why the Koulianoses took him in.

“He’s very much into his family, very proud and appreciative of all the opportunities he’s gotten,” Lauren Koulianos said. “He makes it very easy to have done what we did. You just couldn’t help it, he was such a great kid.”

Best foot forward time, sure. But there’s also this little twist.

Since Johnson-Koulianos arrived at Iowa, his biological family has started to make more contact. He figures his name is out there in the media, so the family comes calling.

His view isn’t at all cynical. He’s “absolutely” open to bringing his biological family back into his life.

“They try to contact me just to maybe … I don’t know if I would use the word ‘rekindle’ but that’s what I would say,” he said. “You can’t explain decisions that are made. I can’t explain them. I don’t have any beef.”

That explains Johnson-Koulianos’ name game. The nickname game is a work in progress.

Johnson-Koulianos was informed on media day that he has Big Ten’s toughest name to type.

“Yeah, well thanks to the fans you only have to type three letters,” he joked.

But what about “Revenue-Rell” and the rest?

“I didn’t give up on (DJK),” he said, laughing. “As far as the locker room goes, it’s transitioning though. I’ll keep you updated.”

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