By LARRY VAUGHT
Maybe it should not be a surprise that freshman cornerback M.J. Devonshire has been turning heads during Kentucky’s preseason practice.
He was UK’s only February signee and did not garner nearly enough attention when he did sign because he has a wealth of skills and talent.
Yet back in his hometown of Aliquippa, Pa., it’s not easy to make name for himself. Here’s why:
— MIKE DITKA.
“Iron Mike” is from Aliquippa and is a member of both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame. He was NFL rookie of the year in 1961 and a five-time all-pro tight end during career with Bears, Eagles and Cowboys. He was on the NFL champion Bears in 1963 and is a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Cowboys. He also coached the Bears to victory in Super Bowl XX.
— TONY DORSETT.
He’s also from Devonshire’s hometown and led Pittsburgh to the 1976 national title when he won the Heisman Trophy. He was the NFL offensive rookie of the year in 1977 and is also a member of the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame. He played 11 years for the Cowboys and one for Denver and rushed for 12,739 yards and 77 touchdowns in his career.
— TY LAW.
Another Aliquippa alum, he played 15 years in the NFL and recently was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a two-time all-pro pick and played in the Pro Bowl five times. He won three Super Bowls
“We have had some great players in our town. Ditka was one at our school. Dorsett is from there but went to another school right next door,” Devonshire said. “I knew a little bit about both of them, but most in our generation focus on Ty Law, especially with him just being inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
Devonshire says if you live in Aliquippa, you play football.
“Or you at least try football. It is something you have to try,” the UK freshman said. “If is does not work, then you go do basketball or some type of other sport.Everybody there has a background in sports but it starts with football.
“Football was something I grew up loving, I played other sports but I loved football. Our program is good. It is a pride thing. You don’t want to be the guy who was on a team that was not a winning team. Every team has to go out and get the same goal and accomplish the same thing.”
During his senior year, he returned eight punts for touchdowns — a remarkable feat at any level.
“It’s all about your teammates and blocking scheme. I couldn’t do it without them. To this day I give all the credit to them,” he said.
He knows Kentucky has an all-SEC returner in junior Lynn Bowden. He’s still hoping he might get a few chances to return punts this season.
“Might give me a couple of reps. Probably won’t get as many as high school,” Devonshire said. “Lynn is a great returner. I will be back there learning everything from him and taking in all I can. He’s a great guy to learn from, so I am lucky to have him on the team.”