Derrick Willies might return


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The Instagram post that sent Iowa fans into a frenzy was published Oct. 27. It came from Derrick Willies’ account. It included a picture of his first-career touchdown reception against Ball State with a caption that indicated he would leave the Iowa football program.

The former Hawkeye receiver — who is still taking classes at Iowa — expressed an interest in transferring to be closer to his father in Arizona, said head coach Kirk Ferentz.

At the time, Ferentz said he wished Willies well but added that “if he has a change of heart in the near future, that would be fine. But I’m not counting on it.”

On Tuesday, Willies released a statement that expressed that seemingly unlikely change of heart. The redshirt freshman said he’s “a Hawkeye” and that it took time to realize that magnitude of his decision.

“I thought I was putting my family first,” Willies said in the statement. “Only after time did I realize I’m leaving my family here … my team.

“It’s a lot to deal with all at once, when the man you look up to your whole life tells you he only has a little time left. My father is going to move here, and I am going to try to get my place back on the team. That’s all I have to say on everything.”

Ferentz said Tuesday that he hadn’t heard from Willies and his focus is on Wisconsin, which Iowa will host on Saturday.

“You’ve got to excuse me; I was working all day today. I haven’t had a chance to get on the message boards and stuff,” Ferentz said. “I’m really worried about getting our team — the guys on the team, right now — ready for this ball game. That’s where my thoughts are right now. We have another game coming up right afterwards. That’s where my focus is.”

Originally from Rock Island, Willies had just 4 catches for 71 yards and 1 touchdown in five games this season. The 6-4, 210-pound receiver averaged 17.8 yards per reception — which currently ranks fourth on the team, and third among those with more than one catch.

Iowa football players who were made available to talk on Tuesday said they had not heard of Willies’ desire to return to the team.

Should Willies decide to return — and if Ferentz decides to welcome him back — many Iowa players believe he’ll reintegrate himself by coming in and working hard, as he did before.

“Just come in and do what they did to [originally] be a part of the family,” senior receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. “I feel like guys won’t look at him differently if he does decide to come back. “We understand that guys go through things in life, like personal issues. So we wouldn’t really hold it against him on a personal level.”

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

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