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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Salem, Virginia

    Devine is ready to carry his team on his shoulders

    Noel Devine's football career at West Virginia began two years, 1,916 yards and 279 carries ago when in the fourth quarter against Western Michigan, he slithered ahead for a gain of 1 yard.

    He was greeted with a standing ovation, and many more have followed the now-familiar jukes and jaunts.

    But asked about his life and how it relates to what he's done with the Mountaineers, he said, "I'm at a loss for words."

    As he enters his junior season as one of the Big East Conference's marquee players and the nation's most electric, he's no longer running from his past, but because of it.

    "Just coming where I come from, seeing what I've seen, it made me the person I am," said Devine, now a long way physically and mentally from his home in Fort Myers, Fla. "That environment made me tough."

    A ballyhooed recruit with an online legend even before he arrived at WVU, Devine jumped into immediate playing time as a freshman. On a team that once ranked No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll, he was an effective and frequently breathtaking backup to a consensus All-American, Steve Slaton.

    When asked to produce, Devine did, and never was he better than in a Fiesta Bowl romp against Oklahoma.

    Last year was different with a new coaching staff and an adjusted offensive philosophy.

    But at the end of the year he had rushed for 1,289 yards and bailed out the Mountaineers with a career-high, 207-yard game in a season-changing win against Auburn and a season-saving, 92-yard touchdown run against Syracuse.

    He's ready for what's next.

    "Just seeing how many players I've played with and to see how they're doing at the next level, just being able to play with them is a blessing," he said.

    "I know what I have to do. I have to be more mature now. I've seen enough and been here long enough to know what I have to do. Now I have to do it right."

    If it sounds familiar, it should.

    The story of Devine's youth is a tired tale now.

    Life was hard.

    The surroundings could be discouraging. Devine lost both of his parents to AIDS. He witnessed a friend's murder.

    He lived with a grandmother and a friend's family and was later mentored by Deion Sanders, an experiment that led to a bizarre move to Texas and an abrupt return home. He fathered children at a tender age.

    "It was a lesson, but also a blessing," he said. "I've got to move forward. Fort Myers is rough. It's something you want to get out of and get your family out of, but you also want to give back. You can't forget where you came from. It made me who I am. I love where I came from, but at the same time, it's rough there. Everything is different from here. What's supposed to be good is bad."

    The player who averaged 6.3 yards per carry, but just 15.8 carries per game last season will be asked to be more productive in the absence of graduated star quarterback Pat White.

    "I know my team is counting on me," Devine said. "We lost a big player - we lost Pat. I know somebody has to step up, and I think a lot of us will step up, but I feel like I need to step up more and not necessarily fill his shoes, but be there when my team needs me."

    WVU is convinced it has more playmakers than before, especially at wide receiver where Alric Arnett, Brad Starks and Wes Lyons are poised to pose in the end zone. A number of newcomers could sneak in and take touches at slot receiver and in the backfield.

    All of that, though, comes with a new offensive line and a seasoned senior quarterback who, while 2-0 as a starter, has never been as visible as he will be in just a few weeks.

    Devine's the star, for sure.

    But there's room for others to shine.

    "It's a blessing," he said. "We've got a good coaching staff. I believe in our receivers and also Jarrett Brown, who deserves to go out and throw the ball around for as long as he's waited to show people what he can do.

    "Once that happens, it's going to open a lot of holes for the running game. There's so much talent on the field, we should spread the ball around. We have so many athletes who deserve to show what they can do with the ball."

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2009

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