The Mason County football team won just one game in 2015 when Malkolm Devine was a sophomore.
This fall, the senior running back helped the Royals to a seven-win season.
Now, Devine will be trying to help a one-win team from Vermont at the next level, as he signed to play college football at Norwich University on Wednesday.
“With our school here at Mason County, we were very young. We were very young and we moved up in class and it was kind of different for us because we were used to playing 3A and not those big guys. It was just different,” said Devine. “We kept on playing and playing and we got used to it and we got more physical.”
The move up and class from 3A in 2014 to 4A in 2015 is something he believes could help him with the Cadets, who went just 1-9 last season. The team’s lone win came against Maine Maritime Academy, 24-22.
“It’ll help a lot because those guys up there – they’re big. I went up there and I was looking at everybody and I was like, ‘Golly.’ Everybody was huge,” said Devine. “It’s just awesome getting up there and I’m just ready to be back on the field.”
Moving to Vermont wasn’t the original plan for Devine, however. He was originally planning on attending Cincinnati Christian University, but earlier in April it was announced that David Fulcher would no longer be the coach. He was replaced by Trevor Zeiders, and Devine didn’t feel as comfortable with the situation. After a trip to Northfield, Vermont over spring break, a decision was made.
“I just went up there and visited. I was just trying to get a feel for myself, see how I like it and stuff like that,” said Devine. “When CCU – they sent me a letter about Coach Fulcher resigning and stuff and I didn’t feel real comfortable with it anymore, so I just went where my heart was and that was Norwich.”
But change isn’t something new for Devine.
As a sophomore, he made the transition from receiver to running back. He ended up catching 10 passes that season for 97 yards while also rushing for a team-high 555 yards and six touchdowns on 68 carries.
“At first, I was scared because I was weighing in at 165 and I was just a sophomore. I was just a little guy. I was really scared, but him [Mason County coach Jonathan Thomas] and Coach [Dean] Ravencraft, they talked to me every single day and were just telling me I could do it if I put my mind to it. That’s why I did it and I actually turned out to be a pretty good running back I guess.”
The Royals improved to 4-7 Devine’s junior season. He rushed for 746 yards and 11 touchdowns on 140 carries, while also catching eight passes for 90 yards and a touchdown.
“He had the tools. We weren’t worried about that. He was fast enough. He was athletic enough. That kind of thing,” said Thomas. “We just knew – in the backfield for us – most of the guys in the backfield for us were home run hitters, and we weren’t quite sure that he was that. Boy, were we wrong.
“I’m just glad it turned out the way it did. He’s worked hard,” added Thomas. “It’s mind-boggling – we’ve changed some things offensively and we weren’t sure he’d be good at it, but he ended up being the best kid we’ve had at it.”
His numbers improved again during his senior year, as he broke the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. He finished the season with 1,147 yards and 10 touchdowns on 175 carries. He also caught five passes, one of which resulted with six points on the board for Mason County. The Royals went from just one win two years earlier to seven this fall.
“Speaking about what he can do on a football field – there are very few things that you can give Malkolm athletically that he can’t do. I can think back to running back drills in the summer and I was, like, trying to find things footwork-wise, and bag-wise, and cut-wise and spin-wise and things like that in a drill that – I mean I was just trying to make up a ridiculous thing that I knew that they couldn’t do, and he could do it,” said Thomas. “He made me look silly in practice.”
Devine’s athletic ability goes beyond the gridiron, too. He also played and excelled in basketball and baseball.
He wasn’t in the rotation for the Royals on the hardwood at the start of the winter, but ended the season playing in 20 games and averaging close to 10 points per game while shooting nearly 35 percent from beyond the arc. Devine has helped the baseball teams to four victories so far this spring, including wins in their last three games.
“I like to think having him as an example would let other guys say, ‘Hey, I can do multiple things and be good at all of them and I’m not really missing anything in the sport I absolutely love.’ As long as you’re playing another sport and competing, I think you’re getting better,” said Thomas. “Kids just don’t do that anymore. It’s a great accomplishment to be as good as he was in multiple things.”
Devine plans on studying physical education in college and is hoping to see time on the field as soon as he gets to New England. The Cadets had two players split the majority of carries last fall, and the Mason County senior is expecting to be a back that can break off some explosive plays.
The Norwich football team plays in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, joining last season after previously playing in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference. The Cadets are scheduled to begin the season at home on Sept. 1 against Morrisville State.