Iowa players react to Willies leaving


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Iowa’s Carl Davis was scrolling through his Instagram feed Monday night when he came across a picture posted by teammate Derrick Willies. It was a photo of Willies making his first-career touchdown reception against Ball State back on Sept. 6, a 12-yard score that sparked the Hawkeye’s eventual comeback victory.

Without thinking twice, Davis liked the photo and continued scrolling. Then, as if slamming on the brakes, Davis scrolled back and read the caption Willies wrote to go with the photo.

It’s been real Iowa, it said, things are just moving on to a different chapter in the story

“I just saw the picture of him catching the touchdown,” Davis said. “Then I read the post, and was like, oh. Then I called him and found out he was leaving. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

On Monday evening, Willies, a redshirt freshman receiver, approached head coach Kirk Ferentz to talk about transferring. His father, who lives in Arizona, has had some medical issues, and Willies told Ferentz he wanted to be closer to him.

“If that’s the case, we’ll certainly support him as he moves forward,” Ferentz said Tuesday.
Willies was the star of Iowa’s spring season. He dazzled fans and media with his speed and ability. He caught deep passes and took crossing routes through Iowa’s secondary with ease. It was believed that Willies earned an opportunity to become a contributor on offense this season.

“I’m pretty sure you’re going to see a lot of him this season,” fellow wide receiver Damond Powell said in the spring.

Powell’s words did not hold true.

Should Willies transfer — Ferentz said in a release early Tuesday morning that he will “wish Derrick well should he decide to leave” Iowa; Ferentz noted that Willies is welcome back if he has a change of heart in the future, but isn’t counting on it — he will leave Iowa City having caught just 4 passes for 71 yards and 1 touchdown in only five games.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Ferentz said. “He’s a young person, and we’ll certainly honor his wishes if he chooses to leave.”

Plenty of teammates were surprised to hear the news of Willies’ possible transfer, but perhaps none more so than backup quarterback C.J. Beathard.

“Especially midseason like this,” Beathard said. “… I and Willies were closer than, I think, he was with any other quarterbacks. I like Willies. We’re friends.”

Beathard called Willies on Monday night after hearing the news and talked to him “for a bit,” he said, adding that Willies told him “he just didn’t feel like it was right here.”

“I was like, is it for sure? There’s no chance in getting you back? And he’s pretty firm with his decision,” Beathard said. “… I guess he wasn’t getting the reps that he wanted to get. And that was one of the reasons. But there was a lot of stuff that went into it, I think.”

No matter the reason for the potential transfer, it’s clear just by talking to Iowa’s players, both on offense and defense, that Willies earned the respect of the whole team during his time in the program. Most all of them wished him the best of luck, no matter what the next chapter holds.

“He is a big-play guy. He’s a physical receiver who goes up and gets the ball,” linebacker Quinton Alston said. “He’s a great guy with a lot of great ability. It is a bit sour to hear of him leaving. Even if Iowa does play him in the future, I hope he does well — just not too well to beat us.”

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.

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