Iowa CITY, Ia. - When the NFL lockout ended in late July, un-drafted Iowa players landed free agent opportunities across the league. It's been that way pretty much since Day 1 of the Coach Kirk Ferentz Era that started in 1999.
The Hawkeyes are proud of their success in helping players who come through the program an opportunity to show their stuff in a team camp setting. They promote it in the media guide, saying that 75 of 82 starters at Iowa from '02-'09 received this chance.
A report came out in July that Iowa's all-time leading receiver, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, signed a free agent deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. In the next few days that "news" was found to be incorrect.
Turned out, Johnson-Koulianos would not get a call from the NFL. The rest of NFL-eligible starters from Iowa's 2011class found a camp in which to prove their worth.
Johnson-Koulianos' college career ended abruptly with a December arrest in Iowa City. Ferentz booted him from the program and thus the Ohio native missed the Insight Bowl.
Is that enough to keep the first-team, all-Big Ten pick from an opportunity at the highest level? He pleaded guilty to marijuana possession after being charged with unlawful possession of cocaine and prescription drugs. Those charges were dropped.
Johnson-Koulianos didn't feel like his off-field arrest kept him out of an NFL camp. He thought Ferentz, who coached in the league and is very well respected in it, submarined him.
The coach denied the charge at his Tuesday press conference. Ferentz said he did not talk to anyone NFL people about Johnson-Koulianos after the December arrest. When he was asked about it prior to that, he told them to look at the film.
"I really don't want to go into a dissertation with someone who didn't finish the season, other than to say that typically players actions speak for themselves," Ferentz said. "I haven't slammed any player to anybody since I've been here. I had very few questions about him in the fall, quite frankly. I can unequivocally say no one has asked me, including December.
"Hawkeye Nation has been waiting to hear the answer to that one, right?"
Johnson-Koulianos isn't speculating that his college coach black balled him. He said he received that feedback from the league. Multiple messages left with his agent, Bus Cook, throughout the last several weeks, were not returned.
"I haven't said anything negative about anybody. Period," Ferentz said. "Another thing I might add, I imagine most of the (Iowa) guys that ended up in NFL camps, probably played in the last game as a senior. That'd be my guess."
What we have here is a classic he-said, he-said. In this day and age of wanting the truth (usually immediately) or speculating about it if answers are not black and white, people will take sides as they have in his relationship in the past.
One thing to note about Iowa and the NFL, Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Doyle has a lot to do with preparing the guys for the scouting combine (to which Johnson-Koulianos wasn't invited) and interacting with league personnel. Johnson-Koulianos also was not invited by Ferentz and Doyle to the Hawkeyes pro day.
It's possible that Ferentz and Doyle did not talk to pro scouts about Johnson-Koulianos (although with as many personnel people pass through the Hawkeye Complex, it's hard to imagine the question didn't come up at some point). Maybe it turned out to be the Iowa coaches' actions that spoke the most loudly to the NFL.
As mentioned, pro personnel folks respect and trust Ferentz and Doyle. They heard about the riffs between Johnson-Koulianos and his coaches throughout his time at Iowa. Couple that with the fact that he was basically disowned from the program after his arrest, and that sends a clear message without words being uttered.
Ferentz said he doesn't promote individuals to NFL front office people.
"No. I answer questions (from scouts)," he said. "When people ask me questions, I answer them. Nobody asked me, very few in the fall, since Thanksgiving."
"(The question is) irrelevant."
Ferentz said to talk to NFL scouts why they wouldn't bring Johnson-Koulianos into a camp.
"Ask for an assessment from an NFL personnel guy," he said. "If an NFL guy asked me a question, I answer it very candidly. Nobody asked about him since Thanksgiving. I can't go back to how many asked in the fall. Not many, I can tell you that."
It's pretty obvious that Ferentz believes Johnson-Koulianos' talent wasn't great enough to overcome his off-field transgressions, be those with the law or the coach.
"When it comes to the NFL and what they choose to do, I don't know it I'd ever be surprised," Ferentz said. "They all do their homework and it's in their hands."
Johnson-Koulianos said he had moved past his disappointment it what he perceives in being sabotaged by the Iowa staff in his efforts to make the NFL.
"I'm beyond that," he said. "I'm looking into new endeavors. I bid them all the best."
Johnson-Koulianos is working on getting a job in the Canadian Football League.
"I'm going to give it one last push," he said.
The Youngstown native also is working as a model in California and on other business opportunities connected to that.
"I'm still 100 percent behind (Ferentz)," Johnson-Koulianos said. "I wish him and the Hawkeyes nothing but the best."
Ferentz said he likes Johnson-Koulianos and believes he is a good person on Tuesday. Publicly, there's love between the two. Behind the scenes, it's fair to say there probably isn't.
It's been mentioned before and seems like nothing has changed in this long fued. You have a legendary Iowa coach and his all-time leading receiver on different pages. That's the shame.