The Best Quarterback In FCS Wants A Ring, Not A Trophy
Snubbed for the Payton Award, Pat Devlin of Delaware would rather win an FCS national championship
By David Coulson
Executive Editor/Managing Partner
College Sporting News
FRISCO, Tx. The best quarterback in the Football Championship Subdivision will be leading his team in Friday night's NCAA Division I Football Championship game when Delaware meets Eastern Washington at Pizza Hut Park.
Ironically, though, Pat Devlin didn't get invited to the awards ceremony where the Walter Payton Award supposedly the FCS version of the Heisman Trophy was handed out on Thursday night at a Frisco-area hotel.
Three other quarterbacks, Matt Barr of Western Illinois, Jeremy Moses of Stephen F. Austin and DeAndre Presley of Appalachian State, were up for an honor that The Sports Network portrays as going to "the best player in FCS."
Well, they missed the boat and a few other transportations devices on that front.
It comes as no surprise that Delaware coach K.C. Keeler has called Devlin "the best quarterback in our subdivision" all season long. But Keeler is not alone in that assessment.
"He doesn't make mistakes," said Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin after studying Devlin's game films the past three weeks. "You can see that in his interception total."
If you talk to many NFL scouts, they will tell you that Devlin is probably the only draft-eligible FCS quarterback with a significant chance to play that position on Sundays. Devlin is expected to be drafted in the fourth round, or higher.
Just three years after Delaware's Joe Flacco was selected in the first round of the NFL draft, some draft experts rank Devlin as high as the second best prospect among senior quarterbacks.
At 6-4 and 220 pounds, he fits the mold of an NFL quarterback and has the tools to boot.
"When the NFL people come in and look at Pat, the thing they marvel at is his mechanics, his decision-making and his touch," said Keeler. "Even when he is forced out of the pocket, he usually gets himself back into position to throw with the proper mechanics."
Mechanics and decision-making are two of many skills this heady signal-caller possesses.
"I was impressed with his poise, the way he reads defenses," said EWU linebacker J.C. Sherrett, the 2010 Buck Buchanan Award winner. "But the thing I was most impressed with is the timing of his throws."
Of course, Delaware has become something of a cradle for quarterbacks, with players like Rich Gannon, Jeff Komolo, Scott Brunner, Andy Hall and Flacco, several who showed up to watch from the sidelines when Devlin performed in the 2009 Blue Hen spring game.
There is a difference between being the top pro prospect and the best quarterback in FCS, but Devlin out-flanks the competition on almost every level, but the one that the TSN voters seemed to be paying attention to.
If you like big numbers from your quarterback, maybe Barr, Moses and Presley are your guys. But while Devlin prepares for a shot at the national title, the other three have seen their teams long since eliminated from the playoffs.
"To me, the awards are not what it is about," Devlin said after Wednesday's practice. "They can take their awards, I'll take a national championship."
Keeler and offensive coordinator Jim Hohfer discussed with Devlin in the off-season the need Delaware had to establish its running game at the start of the season, limiting the opportunities that Devlin had to put up big passing statistics.
"We had to get some things sorted out in our running game, if we were going to put our team in a position to play in a game like this," said Keeler. "Pat understood that and had no problem with that."
Devlin has set aside numbers for wins.
"Everyone knows how Pat made the personal sacrifices to play in this game," said Keeler. "People ask me all of the time to compare Pat and Joe Flacco and the one thing both of them have in common is that it's all about winning."
He ranks third nationally in passing efficiency, but is only 34th in total offense. The one-time Downingtown, Pa. prep star has thrown for 2,925 yards on just 350 passing attempts, but more eye-catching are his 22 touchdown passes with just two interceptions.
"One of those bounced off a receiver and the other came on a pass where we thought our receiver was interfered with," Keeler said.
Devlin's stats were also depressed by missing most of two games with injuries. He sat out the Duquesne contest with a broken left (non-throwing) wrist and was knocked out of the James Madison game on the second play from scrimmage with a concussion.
Some quarterbacks might have been sidelined longer, but Keeler said that his starting quarterback has proven how tough he is for the past two years. But that competitiveness on the field is balanced by Devlin's relaxed nature off of it.
"Pat is not a rock star," said Keeler. "He'd like to hunt and fish and play with his hunting dog," said Keeler.
Devlin's down-to-earth approach scored immediate dividends with the Delaware coaching staff and players when he transferred from Penn State following the 2008 season.
"Pat immediately became one of the guys when he arrived here," said Keeler.
Keeler gave Devlin an interesting test shortly after the quarterback arrived on campus.
Keeler was ordering a sandwich for lunch and asked Devlin what he wanted.
"What are you having," Devlin asked.
Keeler proceeded to describe a deli-styled creation with all of the works.
Devlin then asked for a ham and cheese sandwich.
"That's Pat," said Keeler. "I knew right then he was going to be a no maintenance player."
Devlin said he came by his relaxed, no nonsense attitude from his dad, Mark.
"That's the way he is, so I guess it rubbed off on me."
Devlin began playing football at age eight "about as early as I could strap on pads without my mom being worried."
It didn't take long for him to show promise as a passer. And a strong work ethic has only honed those God-given talents.
"Pat has a lot of natural ability, but he also has worked very hard," said Keeler. "His leadership ability was something that has been apparent from the time he arrived here."
So while other, lesser-talented quarterbacks dreamed of a Walter Payton bust on Thursday evening, Devlin was busy preparing himself for Friday's battle.
"It would have been nice to have been there, but winning a national championship is what I want."