'Older' Derby Steps Up

Sept. 23, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Tight end Zach Derby might not be the most notable Derby on the University of Iowa football team, but he’s making his presence known where it counts — on the field.

“Going back to last December, Zach has quietly moved forward,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. “He continues to improve.

“He was playing the best Saturday, so that’s what we went with down the stretch. He made a beautiful play down there.”

Derby was rewarded for his work ethic on Sept. 17 when he was in the middle of Iowa’s fourth-quarter rally in the come-from-behind 31-27 victory over Pittsburgh. He had a career-long 20-yard reception to set up Iowa’s second touchdown of the game, and had a key first down grab during the team’s go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown drive.

“I’ve always tried to work hard,” said Derby, a junior, who has three receptions for 30 yards this season. “Usually when you do that good things will happen, and that’s what happened.”

UI junior quarterback James Vandenberg has noticed Derby’s progress since the two arrived on campus in 2008.

“He’s done a nice job of working hard since he’s been here,” said Vandenberg, who has completed 60-of-97 (61.9 percent) attempts for 825 yards and seven touchdowns. “He has always had great hands and has been easy to throw the ball to. He had his chance on Saturday and really stepped up.”

Derby joined the Hawkeyes as a walk-on in 2008. He redshirted his first season on campus, did not see action in his second year, before playing in 10 games last season, mainly on special teams. He had one catch for 17 yards in 2010.

Derby’s younger brother, A.J., was one of the most highly-recruited players in the country two years ago. This season, A.J. is the team’s back-up quarterback.

That might be one of the reasons radio and television broadcasters mistakenly called out “A.J.” during the Hawkeyes’ rally, but it doesn’t bother the elder Derby one bit.

“It’s not a big deal,” said Derby. “Hopefully they’ll figure it out sometime.”

While Derby and the Iowa wide receivers were the beneficiaries of the no huddle, shotgun offense against Pittsburgh, the Hawkeyes are looking to re-establish their identity in tomorrow’s game against the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

“I don’t think we’re going to change to a spread, no running back offense any time soon, but if they ask us to do it again, I’m sure we’ll be ready,” said Vandenberg. “We want to be able to run the ball. They (Pittsburgh) did a good job of making that hard for us last week, but that’s something we need to focus on because that’s who we are.”

Iowa hosts ULM on Saturday at 11 a.m., inside Kinnick Stadium. The game will be televised to a national audience on the Big Ten Network with Kevin Kugler, former Hawkeye Danan Hughes and Stacy Paetz calling the action.