There was a time, not so long ago, that college — let along college football — seemed unlikely for Devin Waite. In fact, there was a chance he might not even play his senior season for the Bryant Hornets much less start.
But as it turned out, after completing a fine senior season as a starting offensive lineman, Waite, the son of Tammy and James Waite, signed a national letter of intent on Wednesday, Feb. 4, to continue his football career and his education under scholarship at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
It was the culmination of a lot of hard work in the classroom, after school and on the practice field.
“Last year, a month or two from the school year ending, I had some problems with my grades,” Waite recalled. “I stayed every day after school. Mr. (Doug) Vann, my chemistry teacher, an awesome guy — I stayed every day after school with him for an hour or hour-and-a-half for probably about two months. He helped me get my grades back up. I got them back up to where they needed to be.”
He came out of spring ball listed third on the depth chart by head coach Paul Calley who coaches the offensive line.
“Coach Calley didn’t know if I’d be eligible to play so he put somebody ahead of me so that he’d have somebody to play if I wasn’t eligible,” Waite explained. “I had to prove myself through summer ball. In our scrimmage against Pulaski Academy is when I really took my spot back. I came in as second string but when I finished that game I was first string.”
“I’m proud of Devin,” Calley stated. “He’s worked hard to get where he is. His grades have gotten so much better and I’m proud he’s going to get to continue to play.”
“It wasn’t easy,” Waite ackowledged. “I had to work my way back up. But I knew what the end of it was going to be. I knew how well I could play. I just made some bad decisions in the classroom. And that’ll ruin it for you.
“I went to a football camp at Henderson State last summer because I decided I wanted to go to college and play ball,” he continued. “They were pretty interested in me. It seemed like they were waiting on my final transcript to see if I was going to have good enough grades to play there.”
But it was UAM’s offensive line coach who wound up calling.
“Right after Christmas, about 9:30 one night, Coach (Marcus) Hill called me and told me they were interested in me and to come for a visit,” Waite recounted. “I stayed in close contact with him and, on the 24th (of January), I went for the visit and they gave me an offer. It was a good offer so I went ahead and committed.”
“Devin started playing football in 10th grade but he learned the game quick,” Calley said. “He’s very coachable, probably one of the most versatile offensive linemen we had this year. Every week, he practiced every position. He would start at right tackle one game. He would start at right guard the next. And he was the backup on the left side at both of those positions. So he bounced around.
“He had to know the game,” he added. “He had to understand the offense. He had to be football smart. Plus, he’s physical and he’s really good run blocking especially fitting up with people down the field at the second level and screen blocking. Anything where he’s got to be out in space, he’s very good. I think the way UAM runs their offense, he’ll be a perfect fit for them.
“I’ve been in contact with Coach Hill and (head) Coach (Hud) Jackson later on,” Calley mentioned. “They didn’t know a lot about him early but once they saw film they felt like he was a player that could help them right away.”
The coaches talked about red-shirting Waite, putting him in position to start for four years starting in the fall of 2016.
“I talked to the o-line coach and he said really it just depends how good I am,” Waite mentioned. “He said, if I’m good enough, I’ll start. That’s that. He said if I’m not at least second string, I’ll be red-shirted. He said he looks for me to be able to start next year, though, if I show that I’m as good as he thinks I am.”