By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – For the first time in his life, Cooper DeJean is playing just one sport.
A former four-sport star in high school, DeJean is now focused solely on earning playing time as an Iowa defensive back, most likely at safety or perhaps the cash position.
“I have two brothers and they’re still playing all the sports, so I kind of get jealous at times just because I miss it a little bit,” DeJean said Tuesday. “But I think just being able to focus on one sport, and one side of the ball, has been real good for me, just kind of hone in on those different skills.”
DeJean, who is from Odebolt in western Iowa, didn’t just play four sports in high school, he was dominant in each of the four sports.
In football, he played quarterback and defensive back and led his team to a state title as a senior when he passed for 3,447 yards and 35 touchdowns, while also rushing for 1,292 yards and 24 touchdowns.
In track and field, he won the Class 2A long jump (23-71/2) and the 100 meters (11.16) as a senior and placed second in the 200.
He also lettered three times in baseball and three times in basketball where his leaping ability led to some resounding dunks that were highlighted on social media.
The soft-spoken DeJean attended OA-BCIG High School, which is a four-town conglomerate of Odebolt, Arthur, Battle Creek and Ida Grove.
He became sort of a local legend in high school due to his success in multiple sports.
DeJean said Tuesday that some colleges recruited him as a quarterback, but he felt that playing defensive back for Iowa would be his best option.
And right now, it’s hard to question that decision with the 6-foot-1, 203-pound DeJean in the mix for playing time as a sophomore.
He played mostly on special teams as a true freshman last season, but he also saw action as a defensive back in the 23-20 loss to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl.
“It was good just to get that experience on defense, and then obviously, I played quite a bit of special teams during the year,” DeJean said. “And then I got a few reps on defense and that was good to figure out the speed of the game and how it operates and try to understand what the offense is trying to do.”
DeJean said he doesn’t care what position he plays in the secondary. He just wants to contribute.
“I’ll play wherever they need me,” he said.
Asked what sport he misses the most, DeJean couldn’t pick just one.
“I think basketball probably and track and field as well,” he said “I think those are the two that I miss the most.”
DeJean said that he and some of his Iowa teammates will talk at times about what they accomplished in high school.
They also play pick-up basketball games together during the winter.
DeJean was asked Tuesday to pick a starting five with him and four of his Iowa football teammates.
He gave it some thought before choosing linebacker Jay Higgins, defensive end Deontae Craig, linebacker Jack Campbell and defensive tackle Yahya Black.
Here is DeJean’s scouting report on each one:
Jay Higgins: “He’s from Indiana and Indiana is kind of a basketball state.”
Deontae Craig: Insert what he said about Jay Higgins since Craig is also from Indiana.
Jack Campbell: “He’s a beast in the paint.”
Yahya Black: “Just to have a big guy and he can shoot it, too.”