EXPLAINING DJK TO A 12- AND 9-YEAR-OLD

by Steve Clem on December 9, 2010

I was expecting the question when I picked my sons up after school yesterday.

“Dad, what happened to DJK?”

To those readers who don’t know the Iowa Hawkeyes, DJK is Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. An All-Big Ten wide receiver who has played (but not started) for four years. He seemed to always be in trouble with the coaching staff for the Hawkeyes. And on Tuesday, he was arrested on seven charges when the Iowa City Police Department executed a search warrant involving a drug investigation of DJK’s roommate.

In Ferentz’s doghouse more often than not, DJK had fast become a man of flash and pizazz both on and off the field.

And his story was right out of The Blind Side. Born to a teen mom in Youngstown, Ohio, Koulianos bounced around town as a virtual orphan for much of his youth before his current family brought him into their lives and adopted him legally.

And let’s also be clear. He is a phenomenal player. He broke the career receiving yards record at Iowa held by perhaps the second most popular Hawkeye football player ever behind 1939 Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick, Tim Dwight.

But for every touchdown, there was a tweet. For every record broken, there was a Facebook status update. For every media interview request there was a sideshow that resembled T.O./Ochocinco light.

But DJK had fast become a favorite of my sons. I’m not going to lie, they were Ricky Stanzi fans first. But my oldest, who played wide receiver last fall in his first year playing football, looked to DJK before any other when it came to who he wanted to be when he stepped on the field.

And I respected DJK. So much so that I had personally commended him this fall on the strides he made to stay out of the doghouse this year.

So when I was forced to answer the questions from my sons, wanting to know why their hero was indefinitely suspended (aka kicked off) the Hawkeye football team, I chose to be honest. And factual.

After telling them he was arrested on drug charges, they asked what drugs. I told them the drugs that the police found (my oldest has been through D.A.R.E. and knows what the different drugs are from that, my youngest just think drugs are everything that is bad for you, including fatty foods).

They both said maybe DJK wasn’t involved, maybe it was just his roommate.

I explained that he had admitted to police that he had done various drugs in the past 24 hours, and submitted to a drug test that confirmed it.

Then they both quickly came into the acceptance stage. “Well hopefully he still gets drafted to the NFL. Wow, we’re going to get killed in our bowl game. But Sandeman is a good receiver. Not great like DJK, but good.”

And after reading meltdown after meltdown from various Hawkeye fans all over the Interwebz yesterday regarding DJK, I realized my sons had a really good perspective on it. “That stinks that DJK isn’t playing in the bowl game. Do we have any chocolate molton lava cakes?”

Heck yeah we have chocolate molten lava cakes. Would you like some whip cream with that?

I hope that Derrell does the right thing in the coming months. Take responsibility for your actions. Apologize to your fans (in particular the young ones who look up to you as a role model). Move out of Iowa City, you’re not doing yourself a favor staying in the fish bowl. Work hard at preparing yourself for the next phase in your life, whether that involves football or not. Be careful who you keep in your company, there’s no reason to create temptations you don’t need.

And to my sons I say work hard every day.

Be careful who you call a friend.

Think about what might happen tomorrow for your actions today.

You don’t have to be mistake-free, lord knows I have been far from that…but you should learn from your mistakes.

And perhaps the most important, when your superior, whether it’s a teacher, coach, or boss, tells you to do something, just do it. And smile. And be thankful that you are lucky enough to have that teacher, coach or boss who cares enough to try and teach you something.

We’ve all made mistakes, we just don’t usually get the attention that DJK is getting for our mistakes. But that goes with the territory since we also don’t get the attention that DJK received for his performances on the field.

Live by the sword, die by the sword. Let’s hope that DJK can find his second chance in life.

* * * *

Steve Clem originally published this piece on the blog A Prisoner in the Tundra.

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