Derby marked as athlete


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A.J. Derby’s outright versatility has stuck him in an odd position — nearly being unclassifiable.

Despite leading City High to an undefeated season and a class 4A state championship as a quarterback, ESPN lists Derby as an all-around “athlete.”

His adept ability, ideal 6-4, 210-pound makeup, and his ability to play more positions on a football field than there are fingers to count, makes deciphering the exact spot he’ll play for Hawkeyes an unknown.

“With his athletic ability and with his confidence and so forth, I could say he almost could play any where he wanted too,” City High head football coach Dan Sabers joked.

He noted some seem to be questioning whether Derby will ever take snaps. “I’ll just say this — let’s wait and see before we jump to any conclusions to, ‘Could he play linebacker? Could he play safety or tight end?’ Don’t underestimate this kid as quarterback.”

As the Little Hawks signal-caller, Derby threw for 1,796 yards and 23 touchdowns during his senior season. He also served as City High’s punter and kicker.

After being selected as an Army All-American, Rivals.com recognized Derby (ranked No. 181 nationally) as a “Special Teams Stud” for excelling as the East team’s deep snapper on special teams.
Diverse in ability, Sabers lists two reason Derby will be an extraordinary addition to the Black and Gold.

“One, he is a confident young man who remains confident in every situation,” Sabers said. “It can be the biggest game, and he’ll be smiling. And two is his relationship he’s established with virtually every member of the team. He’s one of those guys who understands that, ‘Hey, if I’m going to lead people, they better like me a little bit.’ ”

Running back Ellis Jordan, who plans to walk on at Iowa, echoed Sabers’ assessment of the local talent.

“He is such a great leader on and off the field,” Jordan said. “He really keeps you focused on the goals we had this season. He’s definitely a leader, but he’s also a fun guy to be around. It makes things a lot more enjoyable just knowing that you’re going to be on the field with someone like A.J., who you know won’t let you down.”

In order to practice with the team this spring alongside his brother Zach, a redshirt freshman, Derby graduated from City High early and enrolled at Iowa.

“I just thought that I wanted to get there early and start learning the playbook and coverages,” Derby told Hawkeye Report. “The next step for me was to get to college, and I thought it would be the best thing for me.”

He is using the extra time to improve his throwing accuracy with the possibility of stepping in as a Hawkeye quarterback.

“I’m a quarterback,” Derby told Scout.com. “I’m a good leader and am really competitive. I have the ability to leave the pocket and can make something out of nothing.”

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