From Marlton To Iowa, A Center Of Attention

Posted: August 31, 1992

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Iowa University senior Mike Devlin has managed to escape the facelessness often associated with being a football center.

Turn to any preseason publication and you're likely to find the 6-foot-3, 280-pound senior from Cherokee High in Marlton listed as a first-team all- American.

Yet Devlin, a former Inquirer first-team all-area lineman in 1987, wasn't reflecting on the preseason honors following Saturday evening's 24-14 upset loss to North Carolina State in the 10th annual Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium.

"It really hurts to lose this one," said Devlin.

"As far as the preseason publicity, it won't mean a thing if we don't win games. If the team wins then everybody will receive exposure. It's nice to be thought of as one of the best, but my real goal is to win the Big Ten and get back to the Rose Bowl."

After redshirting his first year, Devlin started seven games his freshman season in 1989. As a sophomore, he started all 12 games and was named second- team all-Big Ten by the media and helped Iowa gain a Rose Bowl berth. Last year, he was named first-team all-Big Ten and was an Associated Press third- team all-American.

Not bad for a guy who got off to a less than auspicious start when he first enrolled at Iowa. At preseason camp during his redshirt year in 1988, Devlin suffered a shoulder injury that knocked him out of practice until late in the year.

"It was probably one of the hardest times in my life," he said. "I was away from home and it happened early in practice. But I got to practice late in the year and that helped my confidence."

It's hard to figure why somebody his size would worry if he would be big enough to compete in the Big Ten, but the thought originally crossed Devlin's mind during his early years. For instance, the offensive line of conference foe Michigan routinely averages close to 300 pounds.

"I knew I could play at this level, but I'm still not the biggest Big Ten offensive lineman," said Devlin, whose Iowa team hosts Miami on Saturday. "I didn't have any doubt about my ability, but I may have doubted if I would have enough size."

Devlin is a thinking man's player, one who makes all the line calls. He possesses the intelligence of somebody who has been around the game his entire life, which is exactly what happened. His father, John, has been a longtime assistant college football coach. When Devlin was at Cherokee, his father was an assistant at Temple. The elder Devlin coached at Tulane last year, but is taking the year off while he recovers from a hip injury.

Mike Devlin says that a number of agents have contacted him, but he refers all the inquiries to his father. Professional football is not something he dwells on, but it periodically enters his thoughts.

"Of course playing in the NFL is in the back of the mind of all seniors," he said. "But I have to have a great senior year. I can't rest on what I did in the past."

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