Derrell Johnson-Koulianos‘ arrest on drug charges will be remembered as the headline from an incredibly disappointing Iowa football season. Iowa fans have reacted with a range of emotions (anger, disbelief, sadness) on social media and message boards. I’ve spent the last couple hours trying to pinpoint how I feel, and what’s most troubling about the news. And here’s what bothers me the most: We got duped. DJK duped us all.
DJK’s arrest is a reminder to myself as a reporter, and for fans, that we don’t really know these players as much as it feels like we do. I had interviewed DJK countless times, before he was deemed off-limits to the media this season. He was always engaging and articulate, and struck me as a young man that had his “act” together, despite his contentious relationship with Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.
From the fans perspective, he was one of the most popular, if not the most popular player on the team. I’ve heard and read countless stories about DJK going out of his way to connect with fans and sign autographs. He “friended” nearly everyone on Facebook, and had more than 5,000 followers.
What’s more, Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette wrote an incredible article last summer about how DJK was surrounded by drugs and poverty as a young boy in Youngtown, OH. I’m paraphrasing from memory, but the gist of the story was that DJK was adopted by the Koulianos family, and that helped him turn his life around and find the right path.
All the above factors, combined with his play-making skills on the field, made it easy to root for the guy. He was easy to cheer for. We all wanted to see DJK do well.
But I read the Iowa City police report. DJK admitted to using, and tested positive for cocaine, pot, and prescription drugs. That reality makes me, and I’m sure countless others, feel foolish for cheering for the guy. It makes us feel duped.