By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
July 9, 2009
North Ft. Meyers
Ft. Myers, Fla.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Noel Devine spent a few relaxed moments with reporters at the Milan Puskar Center Thursday afternoon before heading downstairs to the weight room to work out with strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph.
The usually tight-lipped junior was unusually chatty and reflective.
Devine cracked a broad smile and laughed when it was brought up that he is looking much bigger this summer, especially through the arms and chest.
No sooner was that mentioned when reporter Bob Hertzel quickly added that he didn’t look any taller.
“You don’t have to be tall – all you have to have is the heart to play,” Devine pointed out. “I speak for all of the little ones.”
Devine then spoke for the neighborhood where he grew up in Ft. Myers, Fla. In doing so, his mood turned more serious and reflective.
“Just coming from where I’ve come from and seeing what I have seen - I think has made me the person that I am,” he said. “That environment has made me tough. All of the things I’ve gone through have been lessons, and it’s a blessing that I have moved forward.”
According to Devine, moving forward does not mean forgetting.
“It’s something that you want to get out of and get your family out of but also give back,” he explained. “I can’t forget where I came from because it’s made me who I am. I love where I come from but at the same time it was rough.
“There everything is different from here,” he said. “Everything that is supposed to be good is bad.”
Devine is also serious about his role as a leader on this year’s football team. Every single report Mike Joseph has given the coaching staff this summer has included something positive to say about the way Devine has conducted himself.
Devine won’t predict how many yards he’s going to run for this year or how many touchdowns he will score, but you get the sense that there is a quiet confidence in him when he talks about what kind of season he expects to have in 2009.
“I’m just trying to stay focused and stay humble and just keep pushing forward and leave everything in God’s hands,” he said. “Whatever happens - happens. I’ve been happy seeing what I’ve seen and being up here and being away from home.”
Devine has watched a lot of the other star players in the program such as Pat White, Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt and Darius Reynaud move on to professional football, and he realizes that the baton has been passed on to him. Now he’s got to take it and run with it.
“I know my team is counting on me,” he said. “We lost a big player in Pat (White) so I know somebody has to step up. I think a lot of us have stepped up. I feel like I have to step up a lot more and not necessarily fill (White’s) shoes - but be there for my team when they need me.”
That means doing the extra reps in the weight room, keeping his teammates on the field a little bit longer during 7-on-7 drills, or spending that additional ½ hour watching tape – some of those things he hinted he wasn’t necessarily doing in prior years.
“If you are here you might as well work and just approach it differently,” he said. “Just by seeing how many players I’ve played with and just seeing what they can do on this level and just being able to play with them … it’s a blessing to be able to play with them.”
Some of those players are the talented youngsters in the program that are now looking up to Devine. They watch how he works and how he goes about his business. What he is doing they will do.
“I’m just more mature now,” he admitted. “I’ve seen and been here long enough to know what I have to do and do it right.”
As for some of those new guys, Devine says they can really play.
“I think they are going to help us out a lot,” he said. “They’re hungry - a lot of us are hungry – but we’re just going to try and stay humble and hungry and go out there ready to play and compete. Those freshmen are out there trying to get better - just like we’re trying to get better.”