IOWA CITY, Iowa - Derrick Willies set off the the Iowa fan base Monday night with a social media post indicating he was transferring from the team. Tuesday morning, Coach Kirk Ferentz shed more light on the situation.
"“Derrick expressed his intentions to transfer from Iowa to be closer to his father, who is having some health-related issues,” Ferentz said in a statement released through the university. “We wish Derrick well should he decide to leave Iowa City.”
The second part of the quote would seem to leave the door open for Willies returning to the program. Ferentz holds his weekly press conference at 12:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Hayden Fry Football Complex and will be asked more specifics on the redshirt freshman.
Willies (6-4, 210) graduated from Rock Island (IL) High School. He's caught four passes for 71 yards and a touchdown this fall. He missed the Indiana game on Oct. 11 with what Ferentz described as a muscle strain. He dressed and warmed up but did not play Oct. 18 at Maryland, Iowa's last contest before the bye week.
Willies announced his exit on Instagram Monday night at approximately 6 p.m. central time. It said on the social network: "It's been real Iowa, things are just moving on to a different chapter in the story…" It was followed by an icon for a peace sign with the index and middle fingers raised as you can see
Willies caught the imagination of the Hawkeye faithful with a strong performance in the spring game. He was one of the media's most sought after subjects at the team's media day on Aug. 4. Ferentz was asked then how he and the coaches were handling the hype surrounding their freshman.
"To be able to go 3.0 (GPA) in both semesters that's a good sign for a first-year player," the coach said. "I haven't seen anything just watching him and observing him that would indicate he's acted any differently than he did before spring practice. So good news is I don't think he's overly impressed with what he's done. He realizes he hasn't made a catch yet in a varsity game here. He hasn't played and earned a letter. I don't think he's out trying to create a brand or something like that. I think he's worried about being a good Iowa football player, and that's refreshing.?
"Since he's been here I've been really impressed with his attitude. I hate to say too many nice things about a young guy that hasn't done anything, but he seems focused. He seems really serious about the things he should be serious about, and that is really encouraging. The other thing that was encouraging is the way he progressed and became more consistent during the course of spring. You guys had a couple snapshots of him, but we got to watch him for 15 days, and I thought he really grew, and that's exciting."
Willies grew up in California and Iowa/Illinois, moving twice between the two states, and switched from Burlington (IA) High to Rock Island High as well. It's unclear where his ailing father resides.