Georgia Tech’s Dylan Deveney was late to football, but no matter

Georgia Tech freshman tight end Dylan Deveney with his parents Fran and George Deveney at their home in Medford, N.J. "We're excited," Fran said of Dylan attending Tech. "It's a plane ride away, but we think it's great." (AJC photo by Ken Sugiura)

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Georgia Tech freshman tight end Dylan Deveney with his parents Fran and George Deveney at their home in Medford, N.J. "We're excited," Fran said of Dylan attending Tech. "It's a plane ride away, but we think it's great." (AJC photo by Ken Sugiura)

In October 2017, Dylan Deveney was having second thoughts. He was in the fall of his senior year at Shawnee High in New Jersey, a successful two-sport athlete (baseball and basketball) who had committed to play baseball at Lafayette College.

At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, he had the frame and agility to play football and develop into a college prospect – his father played tight end at Temple – but he hadn’t played it since elementary school.

“I’d say, ‘Give me one good reason why you’re not playing football,’” Shawnee football coach Tim Gushue said. “He’d just laugh it off.”

And, then, five games into Shawnee’s football season, Deveney decided he wanted to play.

“We were like, what do you mean?” said his mother, Fran. “What are you talking about?”

Reasonable questions. Still, an unexpected decision nearly two years ago ended up opening a door for Deveney. Thanks to hard work, gobs of athletic ability and a desire not to have to wonder what might have been, Deveney is not a sophomore pitcher for Lafayette – a Patriot League school in Easton, Pa., – but instead a freshman tight end for Georgia Tech.

“I’m just going forward now with what I’ve got,” Deveney said. “Just working on football.”

Growing up in south New Jersey in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Deveney played football as a child, but gave it up in elementary school to focus on basketball and baseball. (He has memories of once hiding in a portable toilet at the start of football practice so he wouldn’t have to run.) The Deveneys are the sort of family (he has a younger brother Connor, who is a year below him, and a younger sister Kaylan, who is a rising freshman at Shawnee) that spent summers crisscrossing the mid-Atlantic for tournaments. It was not unusual for the three children to be competing in three states at any given point in the summer.

“He would play basketball and then go right into a baseball game,” recalled Fran, an attorney. “He would change in the car.”

With an effective 3-point shot, he was on the varsity basketball team from the time he was a freshman, scored 1,600 points for his career and led the Renegades to a state championship as a senior (Connor scored the game-winning basket). In baseball, he was able to hit 90 mph with his fastball and committed to Lafayette in September of his senior year.

As his senior year progressed, though, he was beginning to lose interest in baseball.

“Just getting bored,” he said. “And too slow.”

All the while, he was encouraged by friends on the football team to join them and been told by his father that he could play at a high level in college. Watching games from the stands, he decided that he could contribute.

“It was my last year, so I figured I’d regret it if I didn’t play, and I just wanted to do it,” Deveney said.

Deveney told his parents his plan and texted Gushue, who told him to meet him the next day at school. Welcoming a player midseason was not a decision that Gushue wanted to make routine, but the team’s seniors were in favor, and he could clearly help.

“First day I put him on the (blocking) sled, and two other line coaches are with him, and he just hits the thing, like, puts his face right on there like he’d been doing it his whole life, and I just looked over at the other guys and they raised their eyebrows,” Gushue said. “They’re like, holy (expletive).”

Deveney started from his first game. He made progress and the game quickly grew on him – the teamwork, the camaraderie of a big team, the buzz of winning. Now he was realizing that he could play at the FCS level or even FBS. In November, as the early signing period approached, Deveney found himself calling the coach at Lafayette to inform him that he was flipping … to another sport. That he had just begun playing the previous month.

“That was probably weird for them,” he said. “It probably didn’t make sense to them. Didn’t even completely make sense to me.”

By the end of the 2017 football season – Shawnee won the South Jersey championship with Deveney playing the final six games – he had drawn considerable recruiting attention. He was ready to accept a preferred walk-on spot at Rutgers – Ivy League schools also were interested – but the Deveneys were presented another possibility. Dylan could spend a year at a post-graduate prep school to develop and hopefully attract more recruiting interest.

Deveney was eager to start college, but saw value in delaying.

“So if we’re going to pay to go to Rutgers, might as well pay for him to go to prep school and see what happens,” said Deveney’s father George, a boilermaker. “That’s what happened. He had 10 doors open.”

Offers poured in as soon as he started to participate in spring workouts at the Hun School in Princeton, N.J. He was still raw. Hun coach Todd Smith recalled an early practice when an assistant coach told him to run a dig route, a pattern in which the receiver runs downfield and cuts across the middle of the field.

“And then he got to the line of scrimmage, and he goes, ‘What’s a dig route?’” Smith said. “So we just had to teach him the vocabulary, which he picked up real fast.”

Among the offers was one from nearby Temple, prompting an unofficial visit over the summer to campus and then-coach Geoff Collins. The Deveneys liked him.

“He seemed like a down-to-earth, genuine guy,” George Deveney said. “Like, if you want to come to Temple, come to Temple. We’d love to have you. But if you choose somewhere else, that’s good if you want to go there.”

Deveney ended up committing to Rutgers. But, in December of last year, Collins was hired at Tech and made a late push, flying to visit the Deveneys on his third day on the job. Deveney ended up decommitting again – though for the first time in football – and signing with Tech, becoming the Yellow Jackets’ first high-school signee at tight end since 2006 (Austin Barrick). On his official visit, he felt a fit with the team, the coaches, the academic staff and the school.

“All of it,” he said. “It all felt good.”

Deveney actually is one of two members of Tech’s freshman class who started playing football as high-school seniors. Defensive end Mike Lockhart is the other.

Gushue and Smith describe Dylan as easy to coach and a high-effort player with a lot of room to develop. He has 14 games to his credit. Collins and tight-ends coach Chris Wiesehan could certainly use him this season, as the position group includes grad transfer Tyler Davis and several players who shifted from other positions for spring practice.

“Amazing upside,” Gushue said. “He’s talented and he’s athletic and he’s smart, so he does pick up things well.”

Almost two years after choosing a path because he didn’t want to have regrets, Deveney has none now. Does he miss baseball?

“Nah,” he said. “Not one bit.”

This is the eighth story in a series about members of Georgia Tech’s incoming freshman class.

The series so far:

ExploreWhat algebra reveals about Georgia Tech quarterback Demetrius Knight

Nazir Burnett's path to Georgia Tech was not an easy one

Zach Owens brings ‘a chip on my shoulder’ to Georgia Tech

Michael Lockhart is Georgia Tech’s ‘diamond in the rough’

Cornelius Evans’ path to Georgia Tech: Four different high schools

ExploreGeorgia Tech’s Jeremiah Smith has a most uncommon father/son story

Drive, ambition define Georgia Tech quarterback Jordan Yates