Thursday, April 30, 2020

The 10 Most Underappreciated Arkansas Football Players of the Past Decade: A.J. Derby

By Ryan Bolding  
Apr 28, 2020, 5:30pm CDT

In this world, there are many things about us that are underappreciated. Maybe it’s your beard that you’ve spent so long grooming and perfecting (the girl at the bar definitely notices). Maybe it’s the indie-rock band that you started with some co-workers (I’m sure you’ll be charting soon). Maybe it’s your twitter game (that next tweet for sure will get you verified). No matter how underappreciated these are, they pale in comparison to some of the athletes who have played the game they love in front of 70,000+ screaming fans, yet have not been given the recognition they deserved. Here are 10 of those underappreciated football players or the past decade.
Here are the qualifications for this list:
  • Player must not hold any all-time records at Arkansas
  • Player must not have been drafted any earlier than the 6th round of the NFL Draft
  • Obviously, the player must have been on the team in the last 10 years
This goes without saying, but these are purely my opinions and by no means a definite list.
Let’s get it rolling.

AJ Derby

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

AJ Derby’s transition from a quarterback to a NFL tight end is nothing short of impressive. Derby came to Arkansas in 2013 as a quarterback after a stint at Iowa and Coffeyville CC. He appeared in 7 games as the backup quarterback to Brandon Allen and even started at Rutgers due to an Allen shoulder injury. Fans quickly saw that Derby could not get it done at the quarterback position and with Brandon Allen struggling throughout most of the 2013 season, the future looked bleak.

The 2014 season was much more promising and moving AJ Derby to the tight end position for his senior year made head coach Bret Bielema look like a genius. All season he showed tremendous athleticism and speed for his 6’5” 255-pound frame.

Despite backing up star tight end Hunter Henry, Derby finished the 2014 season with 303 receiving yards on 22 catches with 3 touchdowns.

Derby was drafted in the 6th round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. His best season was with the Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins in 2017. He put up 244 yards on 21 receptions with 2 touchdowns. After getting placed on injured reserve in late 2018, he has not been seen in the NFL since.

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