Cooper DeJean named Big Ten’s Defensive Back, Return Specialist of the Year

Iowa star Cooper DeJean has been recognized for his extraordinary efforts this season for the Hawkeyes.

The 6-foot-1, 207 pound junior reeled in a pair of big awards from the Big Ten on Tuesday. DeJean was named the Big Ten’s Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year and the Big Ten’s Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year.

DeJean is the sixth Hawkeye to be named Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year, joining Micah Hyde (2012), Desmond King (2015), Josh Jackson (2016), Amani Hooker (2017) and Riley Moss (2021).

The Odebolt, Iowa, native also joins Ihmir Smith-Marsette (2018) and Charlie Jones (2021) as Hawkeyes to win Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year.

DeJean was also a first-team All-Big Ten defensive and return specialist selection by the league’s coaches and media.

It speaks to just how special of a player DeJean is that he was able to capture these awards despite missing the end of the season with a lower body injury.

DeJean finished his 2023 season with 41 tackles, seven passes defensed, two interceptions and two tackles for loss. In his career, DeJean has tallied 120 tackles, 20 passes defensed, seven interceptions and five tackles for loss. He also returned three interceptions for touchdowns during the 2022 season.

In addition to locking down one side of the defensive backfield for the Hawkeyes, DeJean was a game-changer on special teams. He returned 21 punts for 241 yards, or an average of 11.5 yards per return.

DeJean delivered the go-ahead and eventual game-winning 70-yard punt return touchdown against Michigan State during Iowa’s 26-16 win back in Week 5.

Then, it appeared as though DeJean’s magic had struck again versus Minnesota in Week 8 when he took in a punt at the Iowa 46-yard line, made several Gopher defenders miss along the sideline and then weaved back across the field for an electrifying 54-yard punt return touchdown. It would have put Iowa in front of the Gophers 16-12 with a PAT or two-point conversion try pending.

Instead, it was wiped out upon review with a controversial invalid fair catch ruling that Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz still doesn’t agree with.

DeJean is a likely first-round pick in the upcoming 2024 NFL draft if he opts to forego his final season of eligibility.

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire