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Time for Some Devine Justice

There are many ways to gauge a tailback’s worth: yards, touchdowns, 40 time. With Devine, it’s about buzz. Before the 5'8", 170-pound freshman hit the field for West Virginia this season, his prep highlight reel—full of spinning, zigzagging runs—made him a YouTube phenom and the most talked about Florida recruit since Deion Sanders.

But while the ankle-breakers and killer 4.3 speed dropped the jaws of D1 coaches everywhere, none of it could drown out Devine’s troubled backstory. Both of his parents died of AIDS—his father when Noel was an infant, his mother when he was 11. At 16, Noel saw a friend murdered, and by 17 he was the father of two. A year later, Sanders, of all people, tried to adopt Devine; the bizarre fallout included rumors about his character and gave many recruiters pause. And yet WVU coach Rich Rodriguez says that Devine has been “great” off the field and as advertised on it.

His breakout moment came in September against Maryland, when he burned the Terps with jitterbug moves that left defenders flailing.
He finished the night with 136 yards on five carries. (Yes, five.) For the season, Devine is averaging 9.6 yards per carry on 53 touches while sneaking carries from preseason Heisman candidate Steve Slaton. Whether Slaton, a junior, leaves early for the NFL will impact just how much Devine sees the ball next year, but the little guy is already preparing for a breakout 2008. Devine says he’ll beef up to 190 pounds, to better “take a pounding.” Of course, that’s assuming
opponents can lay a hand on him.