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Saturday, December 22, 2012
Football journey: James Develin

By Mike Reiss

James Develin
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Fullback James Develin has taken the hard road to a roster spot with the New England Patriots. Not many can say they've played in the Ivy League, Arena League and United Football League like Develin has.

That's part of what makes his present situation -- having been promoted from the practice squad to the active roster on Nov. 28 -- that much sweeter.

The 24-year-old Develin, who made his debut in Sunday's loss to the 49ers and played solely on special teams, shared his "football journey" with ESPNBoston.com:

When he first started playing football: "When I was about 7 years old, in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, for the Pottstown Trojans."

Why he first started playing: "My dad. He was a college football player, a big guy. I started out playing soccer and I was getting a little too physical out there. So my dad was like, 'We have to get this kid playing football.' That's how it started."

First positions: "Center and middle linebacker."

Top memories at Boyertown Area (Pa.) Senior High School: "We were one of the schools in Pennsylvania that did Thanksgiving Day football games. That was an awesome tradition, playing your last game of the season with your friends and then going home and eating turkey."

James Develin
James Develin (44) played defense in college at Brown.
Why he decided to attend Brown University: "It kind of felt right when I went on my official visit there. The guys, my teammates, my coaches -- I felt really at home there. It was a blue-collar type feel for an Ivy League school. I really enjoyed my time on the visit."

Other college options: "At the time, it was pretty much between Brown and Princeton."

Favorite memories at Brown: "So many. Probably winning the Ivy League championship my junior year. That's an awesome memory. Just remembering all my friends and all the stuff we did together. Graduation, that was a big moment; that will be a special day for me the rest of my life [mechanical engineering degree]."

If he expected to be drafted: "No. I talked with my agent before the draft and I knew it was a pretty slim chance."

Earning a tryout with the Cleveland Browns: "I went as a 3-4 outside linebacker, after playing D-end in college [in a 4-3]. It was a lot of detail there. That was a big thing with [then-coach] Eric Mangini. The first day we got in there, he was quizzing us on the quotes on the walls and stuff like that. You really had to pay attention to everything with him. I didn't end up making it there."

Playing arena football in Oklahoma City: "I did that for five weeks. That was a different experience. I didn't get to play much, just the last game of the season, because I was young and didn't have any experience in the league. It was kind of my first role with professional football, being on my own in a different city. It kind of got my feet wet and all that. I enjoyed my time there."

Why he pursued the Arena League when he has a mechanical engineering degree: "My education, I put my stamp on that and it was going to be there for the rest of my life. Football, there is a small window in your life that you can do that. I figured I didn't have anything going at the time as far as NFL or even UFL at that time, so I was like, 'You know what, I might as well go play the game I love and make some money doing it.' That's what I did."

Getting paid in the Arena Football League: "I didn't make much. It was right after half of the arena teams went under, but I ended up on the positive side of things."

Hooking on with the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League: "That was a great experience for me, because when I got in there, it was probably their best year as far as the whole league went. That was a well-run organization and there were a bunch of NFL guys there. I got to experience the NFL pro lifestyle and kind of how to conduct yourself, take care of your body, and study -- at a lesser level than the NFL. That's where I made the transition to fullback."

Signing with the Bengals' practice squad: "I got there at the very end of the 2011 season. A day after our [UFL] season ended, they called and brought me in for a tryout. That was another very good learning experience. I spent a lot of time watching film and going through practice, and it was very valuable spending time behind Chris Pressley, who is a great fullback. I shadowed him and how he played the game, while learning from a great coach in Jim Anderson."

Joining the Patriots' practice squad in 2012 and getting promoted to the 53-man roster Nov. 28: "It's awesome being here. I really appreciate the way that the Patriots run their organization. They really value hard work and I'm just happy to be part of the team."

Favorite teams and players growing up: "I grew up outside of Philadelphia, so I was an Eagles fan. I was a Reggie White fan, but I was a little bit after his time. Randall Cunningham ... all those great Eagles back in the day. Irving Fryar, I was a big fan of his."

What he loves about football: "The team aspect. It's the greatest team sport ever created. It takes all 11 guys, on every single play, to get the job done. That camaraderie is something you can't find anywhere else. Not only that, it teaches every person such valuable life lessons as far as teamwork, being reliable, being tough, and all that kind of stuff."

Role models: "My father [Jim] is my biggest role model. He was a football player and it's the way he's conducted himself throughout life, in certain situations, that I've seen. I've tried to emulate how he's taken on life. ... I'm a big boxing fan, too. I liked Mike Tyson's intensity, and Muhammad Ali for his confidence. In football, I was a Ray Lewis fan; he's a great player and the way he takes care of himself -- to be a middle linebacker as long as he has, that's something to admire."

Summing up his football journey: "It's long, humbling, and so worth it. I can't wait to have a son and start him in football and watch him through everything. Football is a game that will teach you so much and I've valued every single second of it. I love it."