Journal Inquirer

March 25, 2017

MANCHESTER — When Seth DeValve learned how sports could shape his character off the field, he said he knew the course of his life would never be the same.


That growth was honored at a ceremony Friday as DeValve — a football and track standout at Manchester High School — became the school’s first alumnus to have his jersey retired.


MHS spring athletes crowded the event at the school’s Bailey Auditorium where Athletic Director Lindsey Boutilier and DeValve’s former coaches lauded the 2011 graduate, Princeton University graduate, and second-year tight end for the Cleveland Browns.


Former MHS football coach Marco Pizzoferrato called DeValve a self-made man who stayed true to himself and inspired his peers.


“He always stuck by who he was, and what he was all the time,” Pizzoferrato said. “He was a leader in everything he did — the weight room, academics, the way he carried himself.”


He said DeValve’s presence made him a better person before challenging the current student athletes to strive for success in every corner of life.


DeValve’s football jersey, No. 11, will never again be worn. But even he admits that honor resulted from more than on-field success at MHS — where, as quarterback, he accumulated more than 6,600 total yards and 61 touchdowns.


During his speech, DeValve recalled the moment athletics moved beyond a way of having fun to building personal qualities. Those traits forged his persona, he said, adding that every kid from his hometown could achieve the same.


“When I look back on my short life so far, I find so much more value in athletics now even when I was a little kid,” DeValve told the audience. “Athletic development is really just a microcosm for life. The character you develop in athletics is the same character that is necessary for being the best community servant as well.”


Balancing academics with athletics is often difficult, he admitted. But those moments are the times where maturity is found.


“Those circumstances, likewise, are never easy in the moment but it’s those times that you tend to look back on the most and be the most thankful for,” DeValve said.


Public engagement, much like Friday’s ceremony, is something DeValve said he wants to continue as he enters his second year in the National Football League.


In recent months, DeValve has spoken to students at Verplanck Elementary School and Mahoney Rec Center, and met with MHS students Thursday evening.


He said the Browns — who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft — offer numerous charity events in which players can visit schools, hospitals, and youth programs in northeast Ohio.


DeValve said he plans to continue volunteering at youth camps run by his friends and teammates in the NFL.


“I enjoy doing it,” he said. “It’s one of the things that motivates me to keep playing.”


That generosity will continue tonight as DeValve and the school’s athletic department host a fundraiser dinner to benefit the family of Barry “Mitch” Mitchell — a longtime security guard who died unexpectedly in January.


At first, the dinner was organized to honor DeValve to auction off his sports memorabilia, but the theme changed when he suggested they deliver all proceeds to Mitchell’s wife, Tammy, and his five children.


“As a town and athletics department, we wanted to do whatever we can to support his family,” he said.


DeValve said Mitchell was a close friend and played a significant role in his life.


During the off-season as an engineering student at Princeton, the 18-year security guard was always at MHS when DeValve would visit to open the school’s gym, offer encouragement, or discuss a shared interest of weight lifting.


“Anybody who has ever been to MHS will tell you about their personal relationship with Mitch,” he said. “He was passionate about people’s lives and keeping this place safe.”


The event at Manchester Country Club begins tonight at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 for the dinner, including a silent auction featuring items from DeValve’s playing days in Cleveland, Princeton, and Manchester.


He said Friday’s jersey retirement and today’s homecoming dinner proves how much Manchester cares about their community members.


“It shows how tight the community is here in Manchester,” DeValve said. “They value their kids and their success enough to honor them in a way such as this. I’m extremely grateful and appreciate it.”