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Iowa Hawkeyes football recruit Derek Weisskopf hoping to lead Williamsburg (Iowa) basketball to state tournament

Weisskopf is one of a handful of Hawkeyes football recruits who has shined on the hardwood this winter

TIFFIN, IOWA – The University of Iowa football program loves to recruit multi-sport athletes. 

There are 32 former Hawkeyes currently on active National Football League rosters, and nearly all excelled in more than just football at the high school level.

Of Iowa’s football signees from the Class of 2024, Williamsburg senior linebacker Derek Weisskopf is one still pursuing other athletic endeavors while chasing a goal and a dream … the dream of a boys’ basketball state tournament berth.

“It’s going to take a lot,” said Weisskopf, who will lead the Raiders into a Class 3A boys’ basketball substate final against Keokuk Monday at 6:30 at Alliant Energy PowerHouse in Cedar Rapids. “We’re going to have to play like we did (against Clear Creek Amana). Get a few more stops on the defensive end. If we shoot like we did (against Clear Creek Amana) and keep the offensive momentum going, I think we have a good chance of going back to Wells (Fargo Arena).”

Weisskopf erupted for a season-high 37 points in Williamsburg’s 83-63 substate semifinal victory Thursday night at Clear Creek Amana, a team that had already defeated the Raiders twice this season. The performance raised Weisskopf’s team-best scoring average to an even 21 points per game for Williamsburg (15-8), which has won four of its last five contests.

“Everyone is shooting the ball a lot better than we have recently,” Weisskopf said.

A win against Keokuk (17-6) would send the Raiders to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines – site of the state tournament – for the first time since 2015 and just the third instance in program history.

“It would mean a lot,” Williamsburg boys’ basketball coach Bradley Knoop said. “It would mean the world to them. … I think they are eager for that moment. … They can be that group and leave their legacy on the school like that.”

Should Weisskopf and the Raiders earn that coveted state basketball berth, their “legacy” would be remarkable in the history of Williamsburg athletics. Ten games into last fall’s football season, a promising campaign appeared to be in peril when Williamsburg starting quarterback Kellen Cockrell sustained his second injury of the season in the opening round of the 3A playoffs.

No worries. The Raiders simply moved Weisskopf from receiver to quarterback and the 6-foot-4, 210-pound linebacker prospect helped Williamsburg (12-1) roll through the 3A playoff field and win the first football state title in school history.

“When he got moved to quarterback, he took a bigger role,” said fellow senior Braden Plotz, a member of both the Williamsburg football and boys’ basketball teams. “Still a great – just like basketball – vocal leader. Keeping us on the path that we successfully got to.”

In the four football playoff games, Weisskopf threw for 748 yards and 12 touchdowns – with just one interception – and also ran for 208 yards. On defense, Weisskopf was his usual standout self as he collected 22 total tackles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery in the playoffs.

Heck, he even punted. It was the perfect encapsulation of the type of versatility, athleticism and team-first attitude that the Hawkeyes covet.

“They are huge on doing different things,” Weisskopf said of Iowa. “It’s just good for the body. Working those different muscles and building an overall frame for them once (I) get to the University of Iowa. They love multi-sport athletes.”

Weisskopf has also spent time at safety at various points in his high school football career. He realizes he is far from a finished product and is anxious to see what a Division-I college strength and conditioning program can do to get him ready for the enhanced collegiate competition.

“I can fill holes, I can tackle super-hard,” said Weisskopf, who was selected to compete in last month’s All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. “I have some things to work on, obviously. Everyone does. One thing I want to work on is getting in the weight room, having the right nutrition so I can bulk up a little bit so I can go against those bigger linemen.”

Weisskopf is a three-time all-state football selection by the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association, and he figures to earn his third all-state basketball honor next month. In track and field, Weisskopf is a two-time high jump state champion and a state runner-up in the shot put.

“Derek is one of those that is going to rise to any occasion and he always does,” Knoop said. “He’ll do whatever it takes for any team. The University of Iowa is getting a great one with him because he is going to outwork anybody. Everybody knows that about him. If you go meet him, the most humble kid that there is. Has so much competitive spirit and humbleness about him that it just makes him a great kid and an even better competitor.”

Even though he still has a few months before reporting to Iowa this summer, Weisskopf has already built strong relationships with other members from Iowa’s 2024 signing class like offensive lineman Cody Fox (East Buchanan) and fellow linebackers Cam Buffington (Winfield-Mount Union) and Preston Ries (Monticello). The quartet took unofficial visits to the Iowa campus on many of the same weekends and have attended Hawkeyes’ football games together for the past three seasons.

“I think it's huge,” Weisskopf said. “Because then we can rely on each other. We can help each other out. We know what maybe someone struggles with or we can help each other out with school, with football, just life in general. Building that early relationship is great. With anybody.”

In June 2021, Fox became Iowa’s first commit from the 2024 class. A month later, Buffington became the second. Weisskopf was third in April 2022, while Ries did the same less than three weeks later.

“All the coaches there, they have been there 10 to 25 years,” Weisskopf said of Iowa. “They know what they're doing. They develop their players very well and there are tons of dudes that are going into the NFL. So I'm excited about that.”

Like Weisskopf, Buffington and Ries – as well as Central Lyon’s Reece Vander Zee – are all standouts on their boys’ basketball teams.

Ries averaged a team-best 26.4 points for Monticello (18-3), which was upset Feb. 15 by Dyersville Beckman in a 2A district semifinal.

Vander Zee – a receiver signee for the Hawkeyes – led his team with 24.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, but Central Lyon (13-11) was bounced by Western Christian Feb. 20 in a 2A district final.

Buffington leads Winfield-Mount Union (19-2) in points (19.1), rebounds (7.4) and assists (4.0) and helped the Wolves earn their first trip to the state tournament since 1996 with a 46-41 victory over Holy Trinity Catholic in Saturday night’s 1A substate final.

“Everyone that I know that's committed to Iowa, we all have good families and we’re all there to do one job,” Weisskopf said.

Whether Weisskopf joins Buffington at “Wells” will be decided Monday night.

“With the confidence we have going into Monday night coming up, we'll be great,” Weisskopf said.

--Douglas Miles | @SBLiveIA