The night before signing day, word began to leak that there was going to be a surprise addition to the 2018 UConn football recruiting class out of the state of Texas. That surprise could turn into a nightmare for opposing offenses in upcoming years as defensive end Pierce DeVaughn officially became a Husky, signing his papers on Wednesday.
“Excitement and relief were probably the two biggest things for me,” DeVaughn said of his emotions throughout the course of the day. “We had an event at the school that was open to anyone; students, friends and family. I signed right after 7AM and posted on Twitter that I was officially committing. As the day went on, I just stayed excited and relieved to be done with the entire process. It had gotten stressful at times.”
The road has been a long one for DeVaughn, who played his senior season at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, helping to capture the school’s fifth state championship in December, as they erased an 18-point third quarter deficit en route to a 42-41 victory in the championship game. The recruiting process was slow during his junior year and that’s when he decided to move on from Frisco High School, to focus on what connections he could make in order to help develop his game. That’s how he landed at PCA.
UConn’s involvement with DeVaughn came late in the process, sending an offer his way on January 30th, just eight days before signing day. A few days after receiving the offer, he was on his way up to Storrs for a visit last weekend and the school surpassed his expectations.
“They have really nice facilities up there,” he said. “We took a tour with one of the coaches and went through a lot of the campus. The thing I liked the most was how nice everything was, how well kept the campus was and how awesome the football building was. You walk in there, it’s crazy, it’s almost like a Hall of Fame. You see the NFL wall, the trophies and all the pictures. It’s pretty amazing. I just decided as we were coming back, talking to my parents, that I wanted to be a part of it.”
Prior to UConn, DeVaughn was committed to Montana State, one of three FCS offers he had received throughout the recruiting process. He ideally wanted to stay close to home, but recognized it was not going to work out that way. On his visit, he got to know the UConn staff a bit and that made him feel comfortable with being so far away.
“They were very genuine people,” he said. “I could tell that they all really wanted me to be there. That’s the biggest thing for me. When you walk in to meet coaches, I don’t want to say that you want to feel like you’re important, but it’s more the fact that they are being genuine and actually want you to come to their school. How they greet you really says everything. You can tell when someone has better things to do. Each one of them were really nice and I feel like I got to know each one of their personalities a little bit over the course of the two days.”
During Edsall’s signing day press conference on Wednesday, he had only glowing things to say about his new defensive end, certainly turning heads with some of his comments.
“He’s a guy that has some natural ability that you don’t teach,” Edsall said. “When you watch the game film, he can bend and dip at full speed, never stops. There are guys playing in the NFL that can’t do that. When you see some of those qualities and how hard he plays on every down, from the beginning of the game to the end, he’s very, very impressive. This was a steal, in my opinion and he’s someone that is only going to continue to get better.”
DeVaughn was watching and heard every word.
“That was pretty awesome,” he said. “Some of that I’ve heard before, so just getting another person, especially someone that is that experienced, to hear that from [Coach Edsall] is pretty big. As far as bending and staying full speed, that has definitely been one of my strengths and something that has taken a lot of work. Before I came to Prestonwood, it was just raw, real talent. The coaching there really put a focus on fundamentals.”
“The different things I do on weekends and during the week outside of practice and after practice, it’s just a combination of talent and guidance that people have helped me with throughout my time playing football,” he continued. “It’s been a blessing.”
One of those people is his father, Dennis, who played two years with the Philadelphia Eagles (1982-83) and also found himself in the USFL following an injury.
“He played corner and free safety, but obviously he spent a lot of time around the game,” DeVaughn said proudly. “He went to a small college, Bishop College in south Texas in DeSoto. It’s not even there any more, has since closed down. He fortunately had an opportunity, had great success there and made the most of it. I’ve learned a lot from him. He always told me to be a student of the game, always watch my position on television whenever I get a chance.”
Through that advice, DeVaughn has grown to be a fan of Von Miller.
“He’s my favorite player and why I chose 58 as my number,” he said. “He does exactly what Coach Edsall talks about. It’s ridiculous how quickly he bends around the edge and gets to the quarterback. In the beginning of the season, that was what I set my goal to be, to get around that edge as fast as possible. I’m a long way off from him, but it’s always good to set a goal for yourself and strive for more.”
While football and getting better on the field was a focus of his during this process, he also recognizes how important the academic side of it is, as well.
“The best advice I’ve gotten came from my dad,” he said. “He’s mentioned to me this is a 40-year decision, not a four-year one. When I think about that, it’s pretty eye-opening. Yes, I’ll be playing at UConn and putting in the work for four-to-five years, but I really want my college experience to be great. The biggest thing for me in this whole process has been narrowing down on what my priorities are and making sure I can picture the next 40-years of my life, not just the next four-to-five.”
UConn fit the mold of the type of academic institution he’s looking for.
“It’s awesome and exciting to know that I was going to be heading to a really nice university [as a whole],” he verified. “To have the opportunity to play at this level is pretty big for me. I‘m not sure what I’m going to major in just yet, but I’ll definitely make that decision after I get to school and start taking classes. I know the Business School is extremely good up at UConn, especially with the networking they have set up and how close they are to New York City and Boston. A free education that is worth about $300K is a pretty big responsibility and I’m definitely looking forward to playing.”
As you can probably tell, DeVaughn possesses a lot of maturity beyond his years, something that is a testament to how his parents raised him. A perfect match for the mold Coach Edsall is looking for, expect DeVaughn to see some opportunities early on during his college career.
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