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Devante’s Diary: Back to where it all started

This week’s blog is a special one because I get to tell you about going home to Houston. But first let me talk about our team’s game last Saturday against Northern Illinois.

We came out slow and had some calls that didn’t go our way. I thought I scored on the opening drive but the refs called it off and that’s something that we had to live with, taking the three points instead.

At halftime, (UNLV receivers coach Cedric Cormier) came and told the receiving corps that we needed to make more plays for our quarterback (Blake Decker) because he’s standing in the pocket and delivering it and we had a few drops. Overall, Blake played phenomenally well. Most people just watch the ball after he throws it. They don’t see him staying in the pocket and taking some shots in order to get us the ball. That’s a testament to the kind of player he is — just a hard-nosed, hard-working guy who will put his body on the line for our team.

In the second half I feel like we got it going. We came out making plays and stormed all the way back into the game until that turnover in the red zone that really hurt us. After watching it on film, their guy made a great play, diving and twisting his body to get the interception. I just wish he hadn’t made it and we would have scored on that series and given ourselves a good chance to win. But I believe that how we played in the second half will help us going forward. It set a standard for this offense and now we need to build on it.

This week we travel to my home state of Texas. I was actually back in Houston when I first heard rumors about us getting to play U of H this season and it was really exciting. Neither of my grandmothers have ever seen me play in college, other than on TV, so it will be great for them to come out. They’ve both been a big part of my life and always stood behind me. I miss my family and friends and to know that everyone is going to be there on Saturday is definitely exciting.

I never thought I’d get to play a college game in Houston and now I get my chance. The stadium is only about 15 minutes from where I live. All of the guys on this team, not just the ones from Texas, are excited to get down there and play a quality opponent.

The starting middle linebacker for their team is Derrick Mathews and he and I have been friends since kindergarten. We’re very close – I just talked to him Tuesday morning. This won’t be the first time we have competed against each other.

I remember in kindergarten we had a little spelling bee and it came down to the two of us and the last word was “salad.” Derrick went first and spelled it s-a-l-e-d. I spelled it correctly and won, while he took second place. In little league football we were on rival teams. He was a Mustang and I was a Packer. Football, even at that age, is a really big deal in Texas and I can proudly say that we never lost to them. He still claims that they beat us one year but all I know is that I never I lost to the Mustangs!

Later on we were on the same football, basketball and track teams at Cunningham Middle School. We even both played linebacker back then. We went to North Shore High School and both of us made the varsity football team in our sophomore year. That’s a big deal down there. He was “The Man” on defense while I was just trying to find my way on offense.

We’ve always had fun. I even went with him on his official visit to Houston our senior year. We wanted to go to the same college, but the reality is that U of H didn’t offer me a scholarship in football. However, we both knew wherever we went we were going to work our behinds off to become good players.

We stayed close and made sure each other continued to work hard. Any game he plays, I know his stats. He also knows all of my stats, and we give each other encouragement. When we played at Arizona this season, he called me and told me that I had a good game but I should have also caught that first pass that I dropped. I told him that he needed to get that sack against BYU. That’s the kind of relationship we have. He would give me his last if I needed it and I would give him my last if he needed it.

I have nothing but respect for Derrick. He actually leads the NCAA in career tackles for all active players. I’m happy for him and I know he’s happy for me here at UNLV. I know that after the game – win, lose or draw — we’ll still be friends.

But, remember who won the spelling bee.

Talk to you next week. Go Rebels!

—Devante

UNLV travels to play the University of Houston Saturday at 5 p.m. PT. The game can be seen on ESPN3.

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