By Mickey Furfari
For the Times West Virginian
Noel Devine, West Virginia University’s star running back, vows that he’s a “changed man” now.
In what ways?
“Spiritually, mentally and an overall better person, the 5-foot-8, 180-pound senior from Fort Myers, Fla., said during a break in summer workouts. “It’s all a part of growing up.”
Devine is honored to be a fourth-year senior and headed toward getting a degree next spring. He has no regrets about not making himself available for this year’s National Football League draft.
“A lot of guys are looking forward to their senior year and I’m glad that I’m in this position,” he admitted.
Asked whether he has set any goals for the 2010 football season, Devine simply said, “I’d basically say win the Big East championship first and then go from there.”
He thinks a lot of people probably are surprised that he decided to graduate before turning professional.
“I kinda kept them guessing,” he said. “But I’ve grown up.
“I’m going to try to enjoy my last year with these guys. A lot of people are looking up to me.”
Devine, one of the top running backs in the nation, is blessed with quickness, speed, explosiveness and ability. He’s coming off an outstanding junior year.
Devine rushed 241 times for 1,465 yards and scored 13 touchdowns in leading the Mountaineers to a 9-5 record. He also caught five passes for 100 yards.
For 38 games in three seasons, Devine has rushed 3,381 yards — fifth on WVU’s all time career list. He also registered 4,507 all-purpose yardage and 23 scores on 523 carries attempts. In 2009 Devine finished second in the Big East and 17th among the country’s top rushers. He also has 30 receptions for 674 yards and no TD’s.
Devine, co-offensive MVP with Jock Sanders in 2009, was a unanimous choice for all-Big East first-team selection last year. He made the second team as a sophomore.
An interviewer asked Devine whether growing up in West Virginia was part of “Almost Heaven,” he shot back, “If you say so!”
Devine returned to the Fort Myers area last weekend to spend time with area youngsters at his annual football camp.
“The young group always has brought me pride,” he said.
“I want to help out and put a smile on their faces. If I can do that, it will put a smile on my face.
“It means a lot to those kids growing up. And I enjoy coming back to the same group of guys here and the same organization.
“Education is another reason for coming back. Some in my family have had the college experience. That put a chip on my shoulder. So my goal is high.”