December 5, 2006

Things more complicated for Devine

North Fort Myers, Fla. running back Noel Devine has had a soap opera high school career and it fittingly ended with a bit more controversy this past weekend. Devine talks exclusively about schools he is looking at, the most recent controversy and his Deion Sanders.

Devine, the No. 1 all-purpose running back in the country, finished his senior season with 2,148 yards (more than 10-yards-per-carry) and 30 touchdowns, stretching his Lee County touchdown record to 92. He rushed for 130 yards and a score in his final game, a 20-14 loss to Manatee in the playoffs this past weekend. But it's the way the game ended that people have focused on.

Devine was stopped on a 3rd-and-1 and a 4th-and-1 at the North Fort Myers 44 with 2:50 remaining in the game and his team trailing 20-14. Earlier in the fourth quarter, a Devine fumble led to the winning score for Manatee. On the final play of the game, Devine was stopped for no gain at the Manatee 46-yard-line with 17.5 seconds left in the game and North Fort Myers looking for a miracle.

"It was very hard to take," said the 5-foot-8, 165-pounder. "The fumble was just something that happened. I was trying to gain extra yardage like I always do and the ball popped out. They were geared up to stop me the whole game and I was used as a decoy a lot, but when it came down to the end everyone knew I was going to get the ball. There were just too many guys on me."

As the North Fort Myers team saluted their fans by signing the alma mater, Devine headed off to the locker room, dejected and distraught.

"I wasn't in the mood to sing, I was really down I can't even describe it," said Devine. "I felt I let everyone down."

What happened next is in dispute.

"Coach (James Iandoli) and I had some words and me and Terrance argued with him," said Devine. "It got pretty heated and I won't say what was said, but nothing became physical. It was just an argument. Then I find out I'm suspended for five days from school for fighting and I'm not allowed to play in the Rotary South All-Star Classic next weekend, same with Terrance.

"This kind of stuff is why I think I need to get out of the area when I go off to college. I feel that people are out to get me here and now that I'm not playing football anymore it will get worse."

Devine has considered moving at the end of this semester, back with Deion Sanders in Texas.

"I'm thinking about it," he said. "But I'll probably finish high school here and then just get out when I go to college. I'm letting Deion handle all the recruiting stuff now though, he's been supportive all along even when I decided not to stay out in Texas. I talk to him almost every day now."

So now that his high school career is over, Devine is focusing on the next step.

"I can't wait to play in the U.S. Army Game," he said. "That will be a chance to show everyone who doubts me what I can do. That's my next step and I have to figure out where I'm going to school."

What schools is he interested in?

"West Virginia, LSU and Florida pretty much," said Devine. "I don't think many schools have my number so there haven't been that many in contact with me but I want that to change. I'm open to any schools talking to me."

Devine feels he fits best in the West Virginia offense.

"That's a great offense and I think it's perfect for me," he said. "I like them the best right now but I also like LSU and Florida and a few other schools I haven't heard much from lately like Nebraska and Southern Cal."

And what about Florida State, Deion's alma mater and a school Devine had listed previously?

"I really think I want to get out of the state," he said. "But anything can happen. Now I can focus on recruiting."

And academics?

"I have to take the SAT and the ACT in December and I'm still doing my work in school so I hope I can qualify," he said. "A lot of people think I should take a year in prep school so that's a possibility but hopefully I won't have to."

The five-game suspension is Devine's second this school year and Devine knows it will further fuel his reputation as a troubled kid.

"People can think what they want," he said. "They don't know me. I can't control what people think. You think some people have your back but they don't."

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