Hawkeyes cornerback Jermari Harris’s first impression of Cooper DeJean wasn’t necessarily his off-the-charts athleticism or his world-class ball-hawking instincts. It was his quiet, modest demeanor.
“When he first came in, he didn’t say a word. I thought something was wrong with him,” Harris playfully recalled. “That’s just who he is.”
Well DeJean can do no wrong for the black and gold. The past two weeks, DeJean has made three game-tilting plays that led to 17 Hawkeye points. Head coach Kirk Ferentz isn’t shying away from big comparisons.
“You don’t have players like him,” Ferentz said. “We didn’t have another Bob Sanders on the shelf and they’re totally different players, but they’re both impactful players. In my opinion, you could put him on any team in the country.”
DeJean’s excellence now puts him on the short of list of the most electrifying players in the sport. His teammates know they’re witnessing greatness.
“I was actually on the field when he scored and it was a hell of a feeling,” Harris said of DeJean’s 70-yard punt return touchdown against Michigan State. “I just ran after him and just tackled him. I could not believe it. It was definitely the craziest play I’ve ever seen.”
“I think Cooper’s a generational athlete that will be talked about years from now,” running back Leshon Williams said.
“It’s been crazy,” DeJean said. “It’s the amount of work you’ve got to put in no matter where you’re from.”
DeJean played his high school football in the small town of Odebolt, Iowa — and grew up a Hawkeye fan. He used to play in front of hundreds, now he plays in front of 70,000.
“Sometimes I look around and this is what I dreamed of as a kid,” DeJean said. “Playing in Kinnick Stadium in front of 70,000 people. Where I came from — a small town in kid in Iowa.”