Develin's journey highlights perseverance

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots signed former Brown University star James Develin to their practice squad on Sunday, a move that shined the spotlight on Develin's perseverance to stick in the NFL despite long odds.

Develin played defensive end at Brown, and by the end of his career following the 2009 season his only nibble from the NFL was a tryout with the Cleveland Browns. They looked at him as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

But it didn't work out, so Develin chased his dream playing in the Arena Football League in Oklahoma City for five weeks.

The next stop was the United Football League, for the Florida Tuskers, where he switched to fullback under coach Jay Gruden. Two crucial things happened for Develin at that time -- he learned the ins and outs of playing fullback at the pro level and made the connection with Gruden.

Develin then found a home on the Bengals practice squad late in the 2010 season (he's one example of how the UFL helped keep a player's dream alive), and soon enough, Gruden was signing on to become the Bengals' offensive coordinator. So Develin stuck on the Cincinnati practice squad in 2011 and made it to the end of 2012 training camp before the Patriots picked him up.

In some ways, he's just hanging on, but one has to respect the persistence. If not for his passion for the game, he'd probably be doing something else now.

Develin, who is from Pottstown, Pa., called it an "awesome feeling" to return to the region where he starred in college. He credits his time at Brown for helping him chase this NFL dream.

"Nothing but the best. I absolutely loved my time there," he said. "Coach [Phil] Estes is such a good coach and I attest their offensive brilliance over there to me transferring to fullback. Playing defensive end, I picked up so many of the calls. By my senior year, I knew our offense more than some of the freshmen. I'll try to send my kids there. It's a special place."