Consider the great quarterbacks who played high school football in Pennsylvania: Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Joe Namath, and Jim Kelly. All are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Now consider this: Pat Devlin of Downingtown East High School is off to a better start than all of them. Most people would find it hard to believe, but those who have seen Devlin play know how true it is.
“He’s very polished,” said Neshaminy coach Mark Schmidt. “He is willing to take whatever a defense gives him and to make it work for him. Plus, he makes four or five ‘Wow’ plays on every game tape that you just run the tape back and watch again because it is so good.”
The 6-4, 205-pound Devlin set the Pennsylvania high school record by passing for 9,109 career yards. As a senior, he threw for 3,678 yards and 28 touchdowns, leading Downingtown East to an 11-2 record and the PIAA Class AAAA state quarterfinals.
Tonight, Devlin will receive the 21st Jim Henry Award as the area’s top student-athlete. He is following in the footsteps of another Downingtown quarterback, Dan Ellis, who won the Henry Award in 1996. Today, Ellis is an assistant coach at the school and he helped mold Devlin into a blue-chip quarterback.
“I remember sitting in the stands with my dad and he pointed at Pat and talked about how special this eighth grader was,” Ellis told Kevin Cooney of the Doylestown Intelligencer. “I looked and he was already as tall as me. So when he was here in ninth grade as a backup, I told Mike (Matta, head coach) that he was going to be a top five quarterback in the country because of his physical tools and his attitude.”
“What always impressed us about Pat is that from the first day he was with the team, he’s never changed,” Matta told Rob Parent of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “He has never put himself above anybody else and works just as hard as anybody. From the time he was a freshman, he has always wanted to learn. I can’t tell you how many times he’s asked me to make (videos) on this defense or that player. His parents are no-nonsense people and that’s carried over.”
Against Pennsbury in the playoffs, Devlin passed for 394 yards and four touchdowns in a 26-21 victory. Against district favorite Neshaminy, he rallied the Cougars from 10 points down in the final six minutes to win 45-38. He finished with 316 yards passing and he scored the winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak with just 10 seconds left on the clock.
“We had a really good year,” Devlin told Parent. “The team was absolutely everything we could have expected. Most people don’t know how many guys we had that only played in their first or second year of football. But everybody just worked so hard, it all came together for us.”