The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa football’s Cooper DeJean wins Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, Return Specialist of the Year

DeJean played nearly 400 snaps in coverage this season without giving up a touchdown. He leads the Hawkeyes with five pass break-ups and ranks second on the team with two interceptions.
Iowa+defensive+back+Cooper+DeJean+points+to+fans+after+winning+a+football+game+between+Iowa+and+Rutgers+at+Kinnick+Stadium+on+Saturday%2C+Nov.+11%2C+2023.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Scarlet+Knights%2C+22-0.
Grace Smith
Iowa defensive back Cooper DeJean points to fans after winning a football game between Iowa and Rutgers at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights, 22-0.

Iowa football’s Cooper DeJean was named the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and Return Specialist of the Year.

DeJean suffered a season-ending lower leg injury during practice following Iowa’s 22-0 win over Rutgers.

He said Tuesday on Big Ten Network that he had surgery last week and has been in every meeting “just trying to stay around the team and do whatever [he] can to help.”

Iowa has had five Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year honorees since 2015, including Desmond King, Josh Jackson, Amani Hooker, and Riley Moss. No other school has more than one.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” DeJean said on Big Ten Network. “I don’t think I’d be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for coach [Phil] Parker; his knowledge has really helped me a lot … I wouldn’t be able to win this award without everyone else on the defense … A lot of Iowa DBs have won this award, so it’s cool to be with them as well.”

Hailing from Odebolt, Iowa, DeJean played nearly 400 snaps in coverage this season without giving up a touchdown. He leads the Hawkeyes with five pass break-ups and ranks second on the team with two interceptions.

DeJean was named as one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation’s best defensive back. Iowa’s last recipient was King in 2015.

“I think it starts with coach Parker, what he demands from our room and our defense,” DeJean added. “He expects perfection every day in practice and in every game.”

He returned a punt 70 yards late in the fourth quarter against Michigan State to seal a 26-16 Hawkeye victory.

Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Charlie Jones won Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year in 2018 and 2021, respectively.

Several other Hawkeye defensive players also received All Big-Ten honors on Tuesday, which are listed below.

LB Jay Higgins (first-team media/coaches)

LB Nick Jackson (third-team media, honorable mention coaches)

DB Sebastian Castro (second-team media, honorable mention coaches)

DB Quinn Schulte (honorable mention media/coaches)

DL Joe Evans (third-team media, honorable mention coaches)

DL Yahya Black (honorable mention media/coaches)

DL Logan Lee (honorable mention media/coaches)

DL Deontae Craig (honorable mention media)

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About the Contributors
Kenna Roering, Sports Editor
she/her/hers
Kenna Roering is The Daily Iowan's sports editor. She is a junior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism with a minor in sports and recreation management. Kenna previously worked as a sports reporter for men's wrestling and volleyball and was the summer sports editor in 2023. This is her second year with the DI.
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
she/her/hers
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.