The North Allegheny varsity football team has enjoyed a run of success under the direction of head coach Art Walker, Jr. The Tigers won WPIAL championships in 2010, 2011, and 2012, while earning state championships in 2010 and 2012. Last year, they ended the season with a 9-3 record, and were the WPIAL’s second ranked team heading into the 6A-classification playoffs. Much of NA’s success during Walker’s tenure can be attributed to the outstanding play of their offensive line. WPIAL standouts like Thomas Ricketts, Patrick Kugler, and Joshua Lugg have highlighted their front five in recent years, and with Lugg heading to Notre Dame in the fall, it is time for a new leader to emerge. Luckily for the Tigers, they have a player poised to assume that role in 6-foot-6-inch, 260-pound offensive tackle Derek Devine.
“Well, I have some very big shoes to fill,” Devine told Pittsburgh Sports Now Wednesday night. “I’m going to put a lot of work in the weight room in this offseason, and do my best to do as well as those guys (mentioned above) have done.”
Devine, North Allegheny’s starter at right tackle in 2016, will feature as one of the WPIAL’s top offensive linemen next fall. As a top performer in Pitt’s backyard, this Class of 2018 recruit has been invited to attend his hometown team’s Junior Day this weekend. Having accepted the Panthers’ offer, Devine anticipates the special opportunity before him.
“Pitt’s always been the school I’ve rooted for, and a school I really want to go to,” said Devin. “My mom graduated from there, so I’m really excited to check the facilities out and everything.”
Derek will make the 25-minute drive to campus Saturday morning prepared for an eventful visit. Pitt’s coaching staff provided him with the day’s agenda, and he was happy to share what the recruits have in store once they arrive.
“It said something about meeting with all the coaches, touring the facilities, lunch, and then we’re going to a basketball game against Florida State.”
Saturday will mark Devine’s first on-campus visit to Pitt. While he has attended multiple games as a recruit, this is his first opportunity to experience all that the University of Pittsburgh has to offer its student-athletes. According to Derek, he knows exactly what he would like to see on Saturday’s tour.
“Just if the campus fits with me. And getting to meet all the coaches will be a big thing – just clicking with all the coaches.”
It should be noted that Devine doesn’t need to meet all of the coaches; he has already made acquaintances with a few members of the Pitt football program.
“I’ve been in contact with some of the recruiters on my game day visits, like [Dann] Kabala and [Bob] Junko,” he said. “I’ve talked to them, and they’re all great coaches. Coach [John] Peterson—I met him on the game day visits also, and he came to my school. I talked to him and he’s a great guy, too.”
To no surprise, Derek looks forward to spending time with head coach Pat Narduzzi. As a follower of Pitt football, he is aware of the Panthers’ progress under Narduzzi, and approves of the second-year head coach.
“I really like him and I think he’s done a great job at Pitt – especially with their last season beating Clemson,” he said.
Check out my junior season highlights‼️????????????
— Derek Devine (@devine2304) November 23, 2016
Derek’s athletic future may be on the gridiron, but at the moment, his focus rests on another sport. Following football, Devine takes to the mat for North Allegheny’s wrestling team, where he competes as their starting heavyweight. The Tigers have concluded their season as a team, but the next few weeks remain important for Derek’s solo success.
“Our team made it to States last weekend, and we lost in the [consolation] semi’s a round before placing. But individuals are still going on, and my goal is to make it to States for individuals, which would be in a few weeks.”
Some people believe that in order for a young athlete to maximize his potential in a given sport, he should dedicate his training to that one sport year round. However, Derek believes his cross-training on the mat enhances his capabilities on the field.
“I think it’s a great sport to go with football,” he revealed. “It helps with athleticism a lot, just with hips and moving your body. I think it really helps with playing football.”
After his wrestling season concludes, Devine will have more time to dedicate towards football-specific training in preparation for his senior season. According to Derek, he has spoken with coaches from universities at varying levels of football, including Lafayette, Columbia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Notre Dame; however, he has yet to receive his first scholarship offer. The recruiting process could heat up at any time for the junior, and a strong 2017 season as North Allegheny’s featured offensive lineman could result in offers from a multitude of schools, including Pitt.
And if Pitt were to offer Derek Devine, would they have a chance at landing his commitment?
“Oh, I’m sure,” he confirmed. “Yes. Right now I haven’t seen a lot of other schools, but I’m sure Pitt would still remain my top school being my hometown [school].”