Hardest Working Fullback In NFL Earns Pro Bowl Spot

Official Patriots Reporter

By Traci McCartney //@traciamc 

Tom Brady. Rob Gronkowski. Even Matt Slater. These are players that have represented the Patriots in the Pro Bowl before – and will again. They’re names people recognize. But this year, a new name and face is representing the Patriots in the Pro Bowl – Fullback James Develin.

A fullback just isn’t heralded much anymore in the National Football League, but the Patriots have made James Develin an important part of the offense. He also happens to be one of my favorite players, and I’m not alone in that.

Develin has definitely earned the opportunity to be the starting fullback in the Pro Bowl in January. In humble fashion, he responded on Twitter:

When you watch a Patriots game, keep an eye on Develin. His blocking makes the Patriots’ running backs successful. This year, almost every time Dion Lewis or Rex Burkhead has made it into the end zone for a touchdown, Develin was leading the way. He’s willing to do his job, no matter how or when his number is called.

He doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball, but when he does, he makes it count. He scored his first touchdown on a handoff against the Houston Texans in 2013 where he bounced off the line until shedding a tackler and making it into the end zone. In the AFC playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts in 2014, his number was called and he caught a touchdown pass from Brady and ran over a defender to cross the goal line.

Fullback James Develin catches a TD pass from Tom Brady in the 2014 AFC playoffs (File Photo/AP)

James Develin grew up an Eagles fan in Pennsylvania. In high school, he played mostly defense, and then continued playing on the defensive line for Ivy League’s Brown University, where he was an Engineering major. After graduation, he tried out, unsuccessfully, for the Cleveland Browns.

He then turned to the Arena Football League, where he was signed to play defense for the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz, then went on to play for the UFL’s Florida Tuskers. This is where then head coach Jay Gruden converted him to a fullback – a position he had never played.  

He finally got to the NFL via the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad in 2010 and was cut in August of 2012. The following month, Bill Belichick and the Patriots signed him to their practice squad. He because the starting fullback in 2013 and played the full season and then again in 2014. He was sidelined for the 2015 season after suffering a broken tibia. He’s fought his way back, and continues to fight to be the hardest working and best player on the field.

Speaking about Develin, Belichick said this,

“I think it’s great,” the coach said. “Look, nobody has worked harder than James has. He started off on the practice squad, worked his way onto the roster, on and off as an active and inactive player. (He) has the last couple of years fallen into a very consistent and productive role in the kicking game and offensively. His play time has increased. His production has increased. As hard as he works in the weight room, on the field, off the field, preparation.”

“I mean, whenever you see James, you see him working. You see him doing extras in the weight room. You see him doing extras on the practice field. You see him in early or late looking at film, going over things. He’s got a role. He’s very good at it. It’s a very important role, so it’s great to see him recognized for it. I’m happy for him.”

We’re happy for him too, Bill, and we’ll be happier still if he doesn’t get to actually PLAY in the Super Bowl. But for now, it’s next opponent up.

#OntoBuffalo #GoPats #Patriots #JamesDevelin

 

Talk Patriots with Traci on Twitter // @traciamc

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