Iowa City High’s A.J. Derby keeps his options open

July 20, 2009
Iowa City High quarterback A. J. Derby carries the ball as Cedar Rapids Xavier's Steven Travis tries, unsuccessfully, to stop his progress during their game on Nov. 3, 2008, at City High School in Iowa City.

Iowa City High quarterback A. J. Derby carries the ball as Cedar Rapids Xavier's Steven Travis tries, unsuccessfully, to stop his progress during their game on Nov. 3, 2008, at City High School in Iowa City.

Iowa City High quarterback A.J. Derby compiles football scholarship offers like others his age collect football cards.

Derby, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior, has scholarship offers from Florida, Louisiana State, Alabama, Florida State, Michigan, Miami, Nebraska and several others — “I can’t list them all off but it’s a lot,” he said. Iowa also feverishly has targeted him.

“It’s just kind of wide open right now,” Derby said. “I plan on taking all of my official visits. So I’m going to wait until the school year, then narrow it down to five and decide where I’m going to take my officials.

“It’s wide open. I’m still talking to everyone.”

Derby hopes to take a few of his visits on Saturdays following Thursday night high school games. Iowa City High plays Thursday night games on Sept. 17, Sept. 24 and Oct. 22.

Derby played wide receiver and defensive back for Iowa City High as a sophomore before moving to quarterback last year. He completed 77 of 136 passes for 1,197 yards and 11 touchdowns while throwing four interceptions. Derby also led Iowa City High in rushing with 1,064 yards on 168 attempts and scored 13 touchdowns.

With Derby’s frame and versatility, many wonder if colleges are recruiting Derby as a quarterback then switch him to tight end, linebacker or safety. Other speculation involves whether Derby could play the role of a running quarterback, like Florida’s Tim Tebow.

“Everyone is recruiting me for quarterback,” Derby said. “Some (schools want him as a running quarterback), and some don’t. Some want me to be a pocket passer. It’s kind of a little of both.”

Derby also faces outside pressure to remain with the hometown school, Iowa. His father, John, was an all-Big Ten linebacker at Iowa. His older brother, Zach, plays tight end at Iowa.

“They tell me to go Iowa all the time,” Derby said of his friends. “These coaches (baseball coaches from Cedar Rapids Kennedy) were trying to tell me to go to Iowa after the game. I’m kind of used to it.

“My dad just said do what you think is right for yourself and don’t just do what he wants, but do what I want.”

“I just try not to think about it too much and try to be a normal kid.”


Big Ten football fans like Cotton as next league bowl

May 28, 2009
Although this building won't host the annual Cotton Bowl any longer, many fans want the bowl to select a Big Ten team, according to an online poll.

Although this building won't host the annual Cotton Bowl any longer, many fans want the bowl to select a Big Ten team, according to an online poll.

It’s hardly a scientific poll, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one today online.

On this blog, readers were asked which non-Big Ten bowl would they like added to the Big Ten lineup. Overwhelmingly, readers chose the Cotton Bowl.

Forty-nine percent (213 votes) of the 435 votes cast picked the Dallas-area bowl. San Diego’s Holiday  Bowl finished second with 29 percent (128 votes). Others receiving votes include the Gator Bowl (10 percent) in Jacksonville, Fla., the Atlanta-based Peach Bowl (OK, so it’s called the Chick-fil-A Bowl) with 7 percent and Memphis’ Liberty Bowl (3 percent). The category “Other” also received 3 percent.

The Cotton Bowl has more tradition than any bowl outside of the Bowl Championship Series, crowning a national champion or dislodging the top-ranked team seven times. But it moved to also-ran status in 1995 with the Bowl Coalition and a year later with the break-up of the Southwest Conference. It now hosts the Big 12 runner-up against usually the SEC’s fourth-best team.

Five of the Big Ten’s seven bowl agreements expire after the upcoming football season, including contracts with the Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs and Motor City bowls. The Big Ten has four years left on its contracts with the Rose and Insight bowls.

The Cotton Bowl’s agreements with the SEC and Big 12 expire after the upcoming season as well. It’s unlikely the bowl ever will sever ties with the Big 12. The Big 12 includes four former Southwest Conference schools and the SWC champion anchored the bowl from 1941 through 1996.

The Cotton Bowl would like to rejoin college football’s top-tiered bowl games as a BCS member. The bowl is leaving its long-time venue in Dallas for a $1 billion palace with a retractable roof in Arlington this year. The open-air venue (which saw its share of frigid weather and snowstorms) was one reason why it was left out of the BCS nearly 15 years ago. (The other, some say, is athletic directors like playing golf in Phoenix with no chance of rain/snow rather than crossing their fingers and hoping for the best in Dallas.)

The league has expressed concern with Orlando’s stadium, which hosts the Capital One and Champs bowls. The Citrus Bowl is 73 years old and a $175 million renovation plan has fallen by the wayside during the current recession.

The Capital One Bowl boasts the highest payout of any non-BCS bowl at $4.25 million per team, while the Cotton Bowl pays around $3.3 million. But the Cotton Bowl features tradition and recruiting possibilities. It’s possible if the Cotton Bowl sweetens the pot near Capital One Bowl levels, the Big Ten might jump at moving its second-place team to Dallas against the Big 12′s No. 2 team. Some years, like last year, that might mean Texas Tech vs. Michigan State. Other years, that could pit Michigan vs. Oklahoma.

Coincidentally, only one Big Ten school has played in the Cotton Bowl. Ohio State beat Texas A&M 28-12 on Jan. 1, 1987.Penn State had played in three Cotton Bowls, but each appearance came before the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten.

The Holiday Bowl featured a Big Ten team from 1986 through 1994. Iowa played in three Holiday Bowls in that span, winning two games by a point each (39-38 against San Diego State; 20-19 against Wyoming) and tying Brigham Young 13-13 in the other. Iowa also has played in two Peach Bowls (a 28-22 win against Tennessee in 1982; a 28-23 loss to North Carolina State in 1988) and one Gator Bowl (a 14-6 loss in 1983 to Florida). Iowa never has played in the Liberty Bowl, which last hosted a Big Ten team in 1994. Illinois lost the 1982 Liberty Bowl 21-15 to Alabama featuring legendary Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant in his final game.

Iowa nearly played in the 1986 Cotton Bowl, mainly because of then-Coach Hayden Fry’s relationship with bowl officials. Had Iowa lost its final game and not won the Big Ten title, Cotton Bowl officials planned to offer Iowa the slot against Texas A&M. Instead, Iowa beat Minnesota and claimed a Rose Bowl berth. The Cotton Bowl selected Auburn and its Heisman Trophy running back Bo Jackson.


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