Seth Devalve’s Success “A Great Thing For Manchester"
Marco Pizzoferrato is a health/PE teacher at Manchester High, and as he encourages his students to work hard, aim high, and make good choices, he repeatedly finds himself making references to Seth Devalve.
“He came from right here,” Pizzoferrato tells his students. “And what he did, you can do, too, whatever it is you want.”
Devalve, a 2011 graduate of MHS, was drafted Saturday by the Cleveland Browns, and in two weeks will be reporting to training camp as he begins his NFL career.
Pizzoferrato, who was Seth’s football coach at MHS, says that current MHS students are wide-eyed when they hear the remarkable story of a player who, as Marco says, “was not born to be an NFL player, but made himself into one.”
Seth’s story, he says, is inspiring to all students, not just athletes.
“His success is something we are all proud of,” Pizzoferrato said. “This is a great thing for Seth, and a great thing for Manchester.”
Seth, who later this month will graduate from Princeton University with an engineering degree, said he is grateful for the foundation that he received, both academically and athletically, while at MHS.
“It’s a place that affords you every opportunity, if you are prepared to take advantage of it,” he said Sunday night in a telephone interview as he was driving from Manchester back to Princeton. “I got a very good education and was well-prepared there.”
Seth is the youngest of Tim and Laurie Devalve’s four boys and his older brothers -- Levi, Caleb and Jacob -- were all outstanding athletes themselves.
“Growing up with them was a lot of fun and a huge blessing,” Seth said, adding that his house on Butternut Road – with its big yard and basketball hoop -- was also magnet for friends in the neighborhood and beyond.
A precocious athlete, Seth excelled at whatever sport was in season as he moved through Highland Park and Illing. At MHS, he started at quarterback from sophomore through senior years, and was captain the last two seasons. He also was captain of the undefeated state championship outdoor track & field team his senior year.
“His leadership was unparalleled,” Pizzoferrato said, adding that Seth was extremely versatile but used at quarterback in part because of his intelligence. “The quarterback in our offense had to make a lot of decisions on the fly and because of that, and his work ethic, well, he was just the right person for the job.”
Seth was 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds as a senior and was not recruited heavily. He contemplated being a “walk-on” at UConn but signed with Princeton (which plays at the Division 1A level), where he switched to tight end.
He had an impressive career despite being hampered by injuries and, critically, grew to 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds while getting stronger and faster.
“I was just not done growing when I graduated (high school),” said Seth, who added that his hard work in the Princeton weight room and at practice was not with an eye to the NFL but “really to just be the best I could possibly be as an Ivy League football player.”
What message might he have for today’s MHS students?
“I would say that to be the very best at something takes sacrifice – over a long period of time,” he said, reminiscing about choices that he made, say, to work out on a hot summer day rather than join friends on a trip to the beach.
“These can be sacrifices that, in the moment, can seem large, but in the grand scheme of things are not,” he said. “You’ll never regret working too hard, but you might regret going to too many parties … I’m so happy that I made the sacrifices that I did.”
Seth, who is thought to be the first MHS grad ever selected in the NFL draft, said he is proud and flattered that his achievements have cast the high school in a positive light. He said he shares a frustration that many people in the MHS community have. That is, that the school has been unfairly stigmatized over the years because of some isolated problems involving relatively few students.
“The education I got at MHS – math, physics, chemistry – gave me an exceptional foundation,” he said, adding that many first-year classmates at Princeton had to drop out of the engineering program there because they weren’t ready for the rigor of the core classes they first faced. “And with athletics, I was lucky to have good coaches and a good system around me.”
Asked to name a few of teachers who were especially influential during his path through the school system, Seth paused a bit before naming – from Illing – “Mr. E-M” (social studies teacher and XC/track coach Clyde Ettienne-Modeste), “Senior Blanco” (Spanish teacher David White) and Bill Wooldridge (the recently retired athletic director). From the high school, he cited Mike Masse (who was the freshman football coach when Seth arrived in fall 2007) and Cathy Mazzotta (who he had for calculus).
But he notes that there are many, many others who also warrant “shout outs.”
Friends say that humility and thoughtfulness are in Devalve DNA.
“Seth is a great example of how far hard work and commitment can take you,” said Thayer Redman, who was Seth’s track coach at MHS.
Redman noted that his former student was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes while at the high school.
“Seth has always been very teachable with a heart to help others,” Redman said. “He is a great football player but he is a better man.”