IOWA CITY, Ia. - U.S. Army All-American A.J. Derby received a lot of help in leading Iowa City High to the Class 4A state title last fall. A few important pieces from that vaunted Little Hawk offense have decided to join him at Iowa.
Wide receiver John Chelf and running back Ellis Jordan have turned down other opportunities to walk on with the Hawkeyes. Derby, a quarterback, accepted a scholarship offer during the season.
"We're all really close," Jordan said. "We worked out every day last summer getting ready for the season. We push each other and make each other better."
Jordan turned down scholarship offers from Division II schools and a walk-on opportunity at Northern Iowa. After rushing for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns (he also returned four kicks for scores), he was overlooked by the big schools mainly because of his size (5-foot-7, 184 pounds).
"I definitely feel like I have something to prove," Jordan said. "I'm confident, but I also play with a chip on my shoulder. I know people question my size, but my dad has taught me to take care of the things I can control. I can't control that so I don't worry about it.
"I can control going to Iowa and working hard to get better. That's what I'm going to do."
Chelf (5-11, 170) passed up a scholarship offer to Minnesota State and a walk-on chance at Iowa State to join the Hawkeyes.
"On Friday, Coach (Reese) Morgan asked me to walk on (at Iowa)," Chelf said. "I always dreamed of playing at Iowa. It was an opportunity to play Division I football and I couldn't turn it down."
Chelf and Jordan both earned second-team all-state honors from the Iowa Newspaper Association for last season. They were told my Morgan that walking on will be a tough road to playing time.
"The scholarship guys are the guys that they wanted," Chelf said. "But the coaches told us that there's an opportunity for everyone if they work hard. That's all you can ask for, a chance."
Said Jordan: "When I went on my unofficial visits, it was so exciting to be on the field and feel that atmosphere. You want to be a part of it. I know Iowa has one of the best coaching staffs in the nation, so if I work hard for my opportunity, there's a chance I'll get one."