There was a time when Jordan Devey’s plan was to attend Utah Valley University, play in the band and study to teach music.
But plans have a way of changing.
Instead, the 6-foot-6, 300-pound American Fork native is a starting offensive lineman for the University of Memphis Tigers. He is one of two married players on the team — the only Mormon — and he’s an accounting major.
“It’s a good thing,” the 24-year-old said in a phone interview from Memphis, Tenn. “The decision (to play football) has changed my life tremendously.”
Days before the Tigers traveled to East Carolina for an Oct. 13 matchup, Devey described about how he went from high school tuba player to an FBS college football player in the South. He also talked about how being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not only blessed his life, but helped him to be an example to his teammates.
“I do get the old man jokes a lot, being that I am the oldest on the team,” Devey said. “It’s a good time to be here.”
High school musician
As a student at American Fork High School, Devey played the tuba, the violin and the trombone. As a member of the band, he played and marched in Disneyland, Las Vegas, Indiana and even President George W. Bush’s second term inaugural parade in Washington, D.C.
But while he loved music, there were times marching at halftime when he longed to wear a different uniform.
Prior to high school, Devey not only excelled in basketball, baseball and football, he was so athletic and dominant that other parents demanded to see his birth certificate.
In the eighth grade, however, he began having problems with his knees and was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatters disease, an irritation that occurs when the quadriceps muscle pulls tightly against the kneecap, causing pain and swelling just below the knee. The injury appeared to end his athletic career, so as a freshman, he joined the band.
Following high school, Devey served an LDS mission to Costa Rica. He worked hard, had a meaningful experience and returned home in January 2009. As an added blessing, the Osgood-Schlatters had subsided and his knees felt great.
“During my mission I did a lot of running and jump roping,” Devey said. “I grew out of the condition and my knees were fine.”
As he prepared for a career in music, he had a life-altering conversation with a former mission companion who played junior college football.
“He suggested I walk on somewhere,” Devey said. “I called up Snow College and they gave me a shot.”
When the Snow coaches learned Devey measured 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, they welcomed him to Ephraim, Utah, despite his lack of high school experience. The freshman had much to learn in a short time, but managed to impress the staff. As the season started, he was the backup left guard, but an injury opened a starting spot and Devey was inserted.
He moved to left tackle as a sophomore and was named offensive player of the year on a team that finished 10-2 with a No. 7 national ranking.
That was good enough to attract the attention of coaches at Utah State, Cincinnati and Memphis.
Devey’s decision to play at Memphis was relatively simple.
“I came out here and everything about it felt right. I felt like this was where I was supposed to go,” he said. “There is no other way to describe it.”
Since coming to Memphis, Devey is one of two players to start every game over the past two seasons. During that time he has played left tackle, left guard and right guard, and was recently named to Phil Steele’s midseason all-Conference USA team.
The downside of his Memphis experience has been losing. After being part of 20 wins in two years at Snow College, the Tigers lost 10 games in 2011 and are 1-5 going into this weekend’s game with Central Florida.
Even so, Devey has found worthwhile lessons in the losses.
“They have helped me to grow and develop the attributes to keep working,” said Devey, who has aspirations of playing in the NFL and becoming a certified public accountant.
Devey is one of two married players on the team. He and Linsey Hodgkiss, a former Snow basketball player, were married in the Dallas Texas Temple and celebrated their first anniversary in July.
Linsey Devey knows football. She grew up in a Texas home where three brothers went on to play college football. One, Corby Hodgkiss, played at Brigham Young University. Linsey Devey enjoys analyzing game film with her husband each Monday — she texts him tips during halftime and they often exercise together.
“She’s the greatest support I have,” Devey said.
Mrs. Devey is equally impressed with all her husband has accomplished.
“Jordan amazes me every day,” said Linsey Devey, an education major. “He is the prodigy of hard work.”
Examples of ‘goodness’
Because Devey is superstitious, his wife started the tradition of making him “Chicken a la Goodness,” chopped up pieces of chicken in a special sauce over rice, followed by a flavorful chocolate cake. The special meal has been shared with as many as 10 teammates in the couple’s tiny apartment, and when the food is gone, the party typically moves to the living room for video games.
“The challenge is finding a place to sit,” Devey said.
The dinner conversation mostly revolves around girls and the players often ask Linsey Devey for dating advice. They have said more than once how much they admire the Deveys’ relationship.
“I feel like their mother in this aspect,” said Linsey Devey, who also holds a job as a nanny. “The gospel does come up sometimes but mainly Jordan is a good example on and off the field. Most of the (players) say they feel at home when they come over, they envy our relationship and look for a family like ours.”
Mormons in Memphis
The Deveys both have callings in their LDS ward. Jordan serves in the Young Men presidency and Linsey works with the Cub Scouts. To get away from school and football, they like to go bowling or catch a movie. The LDS Church and their ward family have provided support and strength for the couple while both families are so far away.
“The gospel is a huge part of our lives,” Linsey Devey said.
Among his teammates, Devey has fielded many questions about the gospel.
“It’s fun because almost every day brings a missionary experience,” Devey said.
He shares the gospel with ease thanks to communication skills and confidence he developed as a missionary.
“I’m not afraid to talk to people. Thanks to things I learned on my mission, I have no problem talking to coaches and teammates, or people who stop me at the grocery store. Sometimes people don’t really know how to handle that,” he said. “But I spent two years knocking doors and talking to people I had never met, so I am pretty comfortable talking to whoever about whatever, especially the church.”
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