"I was working for Cleaver Cable, installing underground cable in Glenolden," Deveney said. "It was a real dead-end job. I wasn't making a lot of money, and I couldn't see myself doing that for the rest of my life.
"I wanted to go back to school and get an education."
Though Deveney rediscovered the value of advanced schooling during his time with Cleaver, it may have helped his decision that Temple tight end Maurice Johnson had graduated, leaving the starting job open. It seemed to be the perfect way to spend the next couple of years, going to class and playing football.
It had to be better than the alternative.
"I kid George that he's always living on the edge," Temple tight-end coach Mike Gibson said. "There's an easy way to do it, and he always does it the hard way."
This season, Deveney's making a convincing argument for the hard way. In four games, the 6-foot-4, 234-pound junior has caught 11 passes for 154 yards, second best in the receiving statistics on the team. In the 24-18 win over Wisconsin on Sept. 22, he had 4 catches for 101 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown.
"George has a lot of ability, and he can be a big-play player for us," Gibson said. "If he channels his desire, he can play at the next level. We all feel that way. But he has to be more mentally involved in the game."
Deveney's time at Temple would not qualify as the perfect case study in a
college handbook. He entered school as a Proposition 48 casualty, ineligible for play his freshman season. In fact, because he had not scored 700 on his SATs, few colleges were interested in him as a football recruit. He was going to attend Spring Garden College and play basketball when he met a Temple assistant at a banquet who offered him a scholarship.
Goodbye Spring Garden.
As a sophomore, Deveney sat on the bench behind Johnson, not catching a pass and facing a junior season of similar inactivity.
Things got worse when coach Bruce Arians and his staff were fired after the 1988 season, and Jerry Berndt came to town.
"The new coaching staff was a lot stricter," Deveney said. "It was a little difficult to handle. Everything was different - study hall, getting up early for breakfast. We didn't have too much to do to that point. The old coaching staff made it easy."
Deveney liked the old way better. So, in search of an easy way, he dropped out and started to work. He took a marginal interest in the team's fortunes during its 1-10 season in 1989. When it was over, Deveney was through with the cable business.
He reapplied for admission to Temple, was accepted, then worked hard to earn the starting job during spring practice and got his grades in order during the summer. But it was not that easy. Berndt told him in no uncertain terms that he would not tolerate any further transgressions. Deveney, by this time, had set his sights clearly on a career path. Now, barring injury, he will start the rest of this season and will enter his senior year the incumbent.
"I feel great," he said. "I'm glad I'm playing, and I love the sport. I love the guys I'm playing with, and we're a lot closer this year than I heard the team was last year."
The Owls enter Saturday's game at Penn State with a 2-2 record, already an improvement on last year's dismal performance. The season's highlight was in week No. 4, when Temple whipped Wisconsin. It was the first Owl win over a Big Ten opponent since 1949, when Temple defeated Michigan State.
The win was important not only because it surpassed last year's total, but
because it was against a team from the Midwest.
"It was a great win," Deveney said. "We played it up as the East against the Big Ten. Wisconsin was talking bad about us. That made us play harder."
Gibson's sure that if Deveney continues the effort, he will fulfill his potential and move on to the NFL. The Temple offense includes several opportunities for the tight end, and with experienced senior Matt Baker at quarterback, Deveney will get the ball even if he is not the first option on a passing down.
Take the big touchdown against Wisconsin. Deveney ran a streak down the middle of the field, and when the safeties split to the sidelines, he was open, two steps ahead of a slower linebacker. He won the race to the end zone.
"We have a lot of routes geared to get him down the middle," Gibson said. ''If they put a linebacker on him, we can spring him.
"The kid has a lot of confidence, and he's learning how good he can be. He's still got a lot to learn about the game."
These days, Deveney figures learning is not a bad thing.
"I want to get an education," he said. "I'm a year behind where I should have been, but I'm just trying to get by each semester and do as well as I can."