It keeps coming up. The question was asked at Iowa Football Coach Kirk Ferentz's Tuesday press conference, and continues to be kicked around the chatrooms and on the Internet. Did Ferentz influence the NFL in anyway to stay away from drafting or signing, ex-Hawkeye wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos? We all know about DJK's difference with Kirk, ahd subsequent legal troubles and removal from team. Ferentz denies that he had said anything negative to the NFL, and DJK has often said that he 'doesn't blame' Kirk for his not being an NFL player. So with both principles saying it didn't happen, why does it keep being brought up?
In my mind, I agree with both. I don't believe that KF 'blackballed' Iowa all-time leading pass catcher, and allow to explain why.
My first reason is Kirk himself. His reputation in football circles in both college and the NFL is top-notch. He is very well liked, and respected. It would be quite likely that NFL personnel people would be asking and valuing his opinion. But in order for it to work the way it needs to, the NFL people have to get honest answers. If KF built up a player that would turn out to be a bust, his word would be question. Conversely, if he tore down a player due to personal differences, that too would come back to haunt him. KF and DJK may have had differences, what would be gained by Ferentz keeping him down? What would that say about Ferentz? More importantly, would message would be sent to present and future Hawkeyes? Would they say "Don't mess with 'the big guy' or you won't make it to the next level? Or would he rather it be known as a guy who wouldn't stand in the way, regardless of personal differences?
You need to remember what the NFL is. It is not an office job, where you can hire and protect your buddies. Nor is it the game we played in high school, with everyone running around having fun. What it is, is a cruel, heartless business, where winning and making money is what is all about, and a player is only as good as his next play. If you don't believe that, look at ex-UNI Panther Benny Sapp. Monday night, he was the starting nickel back for the Miami Dolphins. In that game he is lit up by Patriot reciever Wes Welker, and gets cut on Tuesday. What an NFL team wants and demands is performance. If you don't perform you are gone. If you do play well, then you can come back on Monday.
With that said, the NFL will turn their head to players with criminal backgrounds. They perform well. The NFL will over look a great deal for a player that helps them win and play into late January. One running back in the League will serve jail time during his team's bye week. Superstar linebacker Ray Lewis was tried for murder. He was acquitted but questions remain as to why he was there, and what happened, ect. But he continues to performs well, and will be in the Hall of Fame one day. And Pac-Man (excuse me 'Adam') Jones has a rap sheet that would take day and a half to review. You get my point.
If one football team, be it a General Manager, or head coach, thought that DJK could help them win, he would be on an NFL roster today. His personal differences and legal troubles wouldn't be considered or even looked at. What would be, is his 40 time, and how catches the ball coming across the middle, and in traffic? Does he get open, and gain separation in open field, ect.? Which brings up another point. Could it be that maybe he isn't good enough to play in the League.
During the 2010 season, and weeks before his suspension, ESPN's NFL draft 'guru' Mel Kiper, Jr. was asked about DJK. Kiper felt that he could be a late pick, possibly free agent. Kiper said that NFL scouts felt that DJK didn't 'come back to the ball' to make catches. That may not sound like much to you and me, but for an NFL reciever, thats a major stumbling block. The pro camps are full of guys who are fast and can catch. That and a buck will get them a cup of coffee. Is it good enough to get them a spot on an NFL roster, ahh no.
The League is not about training, or learning on the job It is about performing right now. And though DJK was a great kick returner, with a 53 man NFL roster, most teams won't hold a spot for that. He has to do something else well enough to make the team. And ultimately that would be a problem.
The lockout also hurt DJK. Someone may have taken a flier on him, and given him a shot, especially during the spring mini camps and OTA's. Since there were none of those this year, a chance may have eluded him. Once the lockout was settled, the clubs didn't want to take the time to look at him. His personal issues may have hurt him somewhat then, but that would have little to do with his college coach.
There was some, albeit not a lot, of interest in DJK. At his pro day in March, there were three teams that worked him out, but all three passed. Was it because Ferentz 'blackballed him' or was it because they saw something they didn't like? We may never know the answer to that, but again, if any of those teams thought he could help them win, he would be there now.
I'm not sure with his legal issues that Canada is an option, but I'm sure he will find work in the arena league. And we know how that worked out for a guy from Cedar Rapids, that teams thought had too many flaws in his game. His name was Kurt Warner. And he did pretty well for himself.