Kyle DeVan has been on Oregon State football coach Mike Riley’s potential hire list for a long time.
DeVan played for the Beavers under Riley from 2004-07, then fine-tuned his game in the NFL.
DeVan, who always wanted to coach when he was done playing, was an early student of the game as a center who had to read defenses and adjust blocking schemes in seconds.
Riley brought in DeVan as a volunteer assistant once and tried to use him as a graduate assistant last season before the NFL called once more.
When tight ends coach Jay Locey was moved to the new chief of staff position during the offseason, Riley called DeVan, 28, again and asked him to be the graduate assistant and coach a position he has never played.
DeVan had been an offensive lineman all his life. Teaching blocking is one thing, but running routes and catching passes was a different world.
“He worked with us as a GA before he went back and played, and I was very, very impressed with him,” Riley said. “He’s going to be a great coach.”
Riley didn’t have any reservations using DeVan as the tight ends coach because the Beavers have a seasoned offensive coaching staff.
The coaches work well together and they know DeVan from coaching him. They would make it work.
“As a young coach getting into the profession it was a great opportunity,” DeVan said. “It’s learning on the fly, but that’s football. That’s what makes it fun.”
DeVan’s first week went smoothly through the Beavers’ four practices. There was plenty of learning on the job.
Locey shadowed DeVan on the field to instruct him in coaching the players. He also advised DeVan during offensive meetings.
“It has been fun and a blessing to come back, and get to coach and teach a position that’s close to what I’ve done and yet so far away,” DeVan said. “For offensive linemen, it’s hard to learn the game. It’s hard to learn the passing game unless you are put in that situation. Jay has been great and helped me with the intricacies of the position, breaking it down to foot pattern, hand placement and head placement.”
Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf has been helpful when laying out the passing offense for DeVan to understand.
“I know what route they are supposed to run and if it’s wrong, but Danny makes sure about the specifics,” DeVan said. “When we watch the video, Danny points out the tight ends to me specifically because he has great coaches in the room next to him to handle everything else.”
Players have responded to DeVan. Being closer to their age, fresh from the NFL and a former OSU player with these coaches, he can speak from experience and they understand.
It helps that four of the six tight ends have been in the system at least a year. Veterans such as junior Connor Hamlett have taken on a leadership role.
“Working with Kyle has developed our blocking more,” Hamlett said. “He knows what he’s talking about. Coach Locey did too, but from Kyle’s perspective, he’s younger and he played in the NFL last year.”
DeVan is devoted to the Beavers full time now. His NFL career appeared to be over in the middle of the 2011 season when he was released by the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles.
With his career stalled heading into last season, he was with the Beavers. Then he was a late pickup by the Tennessee Titans.
“The opportunity to go back in came and with the way I departed 2011 season kind of ate at me, but then I had an opportunity to play last June and I had to give it one more try,” DeVan said. “I did and went through training camp. The body wasn’t responding like it did in the past. The shoulders, knees and back were just not recovering the next time.”
After a difficult season physically, he came to the decision he must move into the next phase of life.
“It was a decision I made without someone making it for me, and I fulfilled all my dreams playing this game,” said DeVan, who started the 2009 Super Bowl.
As a graduate assistant he’s taking graduate-level classes, but coaching football is his focus. He has at least two years in the GA role and a third if he makes significant progress toward a master’s degree.
“I want to coach so the focus is on football,” DeVan said. “A lot of guys do half and half. For now, I want to be the best I can be as a football coach. Then we’ll see if a master’s is in the future.”