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.”


Ed Thomas on cover of “Sports Illustrated” this week

June 30, 2009

Here’s the cover:

Ed Thomas SI

Ed Thomas helped save Parkersburg

June 24, 2009

When a tornado virtually destroyed Parkersburg last year, Ed Thomas stood tall and fought for the town’s survival.

Where would that town be today without Ed Thomas? Certainly the school district moves all home football games to Aplington. Maybe the school district decides to build a new high school at another location. It’s not that far-fetched that the school district would have considered combining with another nearby district.

Maybe many in the town decide to move away to other communities, possibly the Cedar Falls-Waterloo area. Instead, Thomas demanded the high school remain in Parkersburg. He picked up debris and glass shrapnel on the football field and demanded the school play its first game following the tornado at the “Sacred Acre.”

Ed Thomas won nearly 300 football games and two state titles in his lifetime. But he may have saved Parkersburg with his strong character and leadership last year. That’s a memory that will outlast any of his victories.

On the scene in Parkersburg

June 24, 2009

Ed Thomas was the symbol for hope last year after a tornado ravaged half of Parkersburg and killed six people.

The former Aplington-Parkersburg football coach was gunned down today allegedly by former player Mark Becker in front of his players and other student athletes. He was 58.

People are shocked around town. I broke the news to an elderly couple who were driving around town. The man wept within seconds.

Thomas represented the hard-nosed, mentally tough approach that dignify rural Iowans. He was a man’s man, a leader and more than a coach to these people.

Hundreds of people have set flowers near the football field that bears his name. A press conference with Thomas’ family is set for 4 p.m. I will update following this emotional scene.

If any community can overcome this, it’s Parkersburg. But the real question is, why should anyone have to overcome something like?

Future Hawkeye FB player wins state, gets revenge, meets Shawn Johnson

June 6, 2009

johnson_shawn_5Had Marcus Kloos participated in the Class 1A state soccer tournament this week, Saturday’s championship might have capped a perfect week.

Kloos (6-foot-1, 220 pounds) will walk on and play football at Iowa, but suffered a broken fibula a week before the district tournament and was unable to play. But he was the first player to hold the championship trophy and hobbled with his teammates to greet the Regina fans after the Regals beat Council bluffs St. Albert 1-0.

Kloos and his Regina teammates met Olympic gold medalist — and West Des Moines junior — Shawn Johnson at dinner earlier this week. Johnson wrote “Go Hawks! Shawn Johnson” on Kloos’ bright yellow cast.

“We met her at dinner the first night we were here and all of us starting freaking out. It’s Shawn Johnson!” Kloos said. “So they figured they’d send me out first, the kid with a broken leg, and we all got her autograph. I’m pretty ecstatic, actually. I’m very happy about that.”

Even though he didn’t play, Kloos took some satisfaction in watching Regina dump St. Albert in a championship game. In 2007, St. Albert beat Regina 7-6 in the Class 1A state football championship. Kloos rushed five times for 22 yards and had five tackles in that game.

“I feel their pain, because I remember last year, 7-6 in the state finals,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve watched that game since then. It’s a little revenge on my part.”

Darian Cotton a future Hawkeye?

June 2, 2009

Just emptying my notebook after state track about 10 days ago …

Darian Cotton rushed for 851 yards and six touchdowns last year as a sophomore for Mount Pleasant. He also caught 15 passes and scored on an interception return. Not too bad for a player competing in a secondary role.

Darian’s older brother, Jordan, will play football at Iowa this fall. Their father, Marshall, played at Iowa from 1984-87. It’s no secret that Darian Cotton would like to follow the family legacy up Highway 218 and join the Hawkeyes in two years.

“Iowa has been like giving me different recruiting things, like asking me to go to their camps,” said Darian, who was competing at the Class 3A state track meet in Des Moines last month. “I was offered to go to their spring game to watch, and I like that a lot.

“HopefullyI get to play there.”

Some observers say Darian has more potential than his brother, but that’s debatable. Jordan Cotton rushed for 1,548 yards and 25 touchdowns last year for Mount Pleasant and will play wide receiver at Iowa.

Darian Cotton finished sixth in the Class 3A long jump last month in Des Moines. The brothers are very close, as demonstrated at the state track meet. Jordan Cotton was injured at the state track meet in May and did not participate after the first day.

Wyatt Suess keeps level-headed approach to joining Iowa football

May 27, 2009

Cedar Rapids Washington quarterback Wyatt Suess (17) runs for a gain of three yards against Cedar Falls in a semifinal playoff game at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls on Nov. 14, 2008.

Cedar Rapids Washington quarterback Wyatt Suess (17) runs for a gain of three yards against Cedar Falls in a semifinal playoff game at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls on Nov. 14, 2008.

Wyatt Suess went out for track to get in shape for football.

The Cedar Rapids Washington senior is a preferred walk-on at Iowa this fall and wanted to gain some speed before hitting the field this fall. Suess led off Washington’s 4×100-meter relay team that finished fifth at state last weekend. Washington ended up winning the state meet, its first state track title since 1977.

“Obviously, we’re really happy about this,” Suess said moments after the relay team clinched the state title. “It’s pretty exciting for us.”

Suess, the son of former Iowa starting quarterback Phil Suess, now is focused on football. He’s the only recruited quarterback in this year’s class but immediately finds himself at best fourth on the depth chart. As of right now, he’s OK with that.

“I  just want to go in there and show them what I’ve got and if it works out, maybe I’ll move up the depth chart,” Suess said. “It is an advantage coming in. I don’t have a ton of expectations.

 Washington football video

“This summer I’m going to try to work really hard and get my strength up and my speed up. It’s mainly why I came out for track and for a state title. The next few years I know I’m not going to play, but I’m going to work hard and hopefully get a scholarship eventually and just make the team better and do the best I can.”

Suess stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 215 pounds. He earned Class 4A all-state honors last fall for Washington, throwing for 3,163 yards, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Suess helped Washington reach the state semifinals in football and also helped lead Washington to the basketball substate finals.

Suess will join former teammate Keenan Davis at Iowa. Davis was an all-state wide receiver at Washington and also played basketball and ran track with Suess this year.

With his size and speed, Suess has left open the possibility to switching positions at Iowa.

“I’ve just got to work hard,” he said. “If I switch positions, then I’ll switch positions. Just do anything I can do to get on the field.

“If they want me to move positions, then track has helped me get my speed up. It’ll help me in the long run.”