May 10, 2016

MANCHESTER — The students at Highland Park Elementary School couldn’t believe when they saw former Manchester High School standout and now NFL draftee, Seth DeValve, at church on Sunday.

As they would come to realize at Monday’s assembly, Seth is just like them—a kid from Manchester.

DeValve, 23, spoke before the students and faculty at his former elementary school on Monday just nine days after the Cleveland Browns drafted him at No. 138, the highest selection in Princeton Football history.

At Manchester High School, he threw for 4,650 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 2,000 yards rushing on 24 scores. He recorded nine interceptions at safety, earning all state and all-conference honors.

“These guys cannot believe somebody from their school is going to the NFL,” Grace DeAngelis said, DeValve’s 5th grade teacher. “We are beyond proud of Seth.”

The mechanical engineering student encouraged kids at the assembly by promoting hard work and answering their questions about how he earned a spot in the NFL.

Although Monday was DeValve’s first time at Highland Park since graduating in 2004, he was eager to offer any advice he gathered along the way.

“I want to encourage you guys to have a dream, multiple dreams,” he said. “The most exciting part of being your age is that most of your life is yet to be written.”

Interacting with students from kindergarten through 5th grade, DeValve involved the kids in the conversation by countering with questions for the audience.

“One of the biggest things I’m looking forward to in the NFL is the opportunities to work with communities—especially the ones I grew up in—the ones that gave so much to me,” he said.

DeValve fielded 13 questions from students about which players he met, his training schedule, and who inspires him.

Unknowingly, he delivered the same answer he gave in the school’s 2004 yearbook.

“The more I get older the more I realize I want to be just like my dad,” he said. “The biggest motivation that I’ve ever had is when my brothers come and watch in the stands, because they’re my biggest critics.”

With three older brothers, the DeValve home on Butternut Road was the place kids congregated to compete in games of football and basketball. But for Seth, he had to wait before he could be the best, or even hold his own.

“Growing up for most of my life I lost at everything,” DeValve said. “It wasn’t just my older brothers, but their friends as well.”

“I’ve spent most of my life competing with them, and now I’m looking forward to competing for them as these years go on.”

With encouraging brothers and a father who ran track at the University of Connecticut, DeValve’s curiosity in athletics persuaded him into trying soccer and long distance running—even competing in road races at a young age.

As he received attention from UConn and Princeton while growing into his 6’4, 245lb frame, it was clear his calling was football. With two years left at Princeton, the opportunity to play in the NFL became apparent.

“It was always something I really worked hard at,” he said. “I started getting on the field and contributing and NFL scouts started to take notice.”

DeValve was a special student from the beginning, DeAngelis said, excelling in athletics and academics, even managing the school store in 3rd grade. She said he was able to build on his talent because of the support from his family, school, church, and friends in Manchester.

“We are trying to explain to the kids it starts in elementary school with the choices you make and the behavior you develop,” she said. “You have to start early and get support.”

When DeValve received the call from Cleveland on Saturday, April 30, his supporting cast was still there as immediate family, high school coaches, and childhood friends joined in celebrating the news.

While preparing for the NFL, DeValve trained in New Jersey for a few months before returning to prepare at Manchester High School and Eastern Connecticut State University with his former Indians’ strength coach.

He leaves Thursday morning for rookie minicamp in Berea, Ohio, as he’s faced with his latest test.

But there is little doubt about his hometown’s support out east, as he becomes the first Manchester native to make the NFL.

“This is just an example of what Manchester Public Schools can do for these kids,” DeAngelis said. “We expected nothing less than this, and we are very fortunate to show his example.”