New England’s James Develin scores a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the third quarter of a game last Sunday in Houston.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The fullback with the Ivy League engineering degree wouldn’t be stopped.
James Develin kept moving his legs after being knocked back on his leap with the ball at the 1. More than half the defenders hit him. None could keep him from scoring.
The play that began at the left hash mark ended about halfway to the left sideline. That’s where Develin finally fell into the end zone for a touchdown for the New England Patriots.
The long shot to play in the NFL never gave up.
“Getting your number called and knowing that you’re that close and then finally plunging in there like I did, that was something that I’ll never forget,” Develin said. “It was just an incredible experience.”
His touchdown early in the third quarter cut the deficit to 17-14 and the Patriots (9-3) went on to beat the Houston Texans 34-31 last Sunday.
“I had to make the most of the opportunity that I was given because if I didn’t,” he said, “then I probably wouldn’t get it again.”
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Develin was a defensive end at Brown, then played in the Arena Football League and the United Football League.
“I knew my road to the NFL was going to be a tough one, so I wanted to be versatile,” he said about his move to fullback. “When I got in the UFL I finally made the switch.”
It was hardly an instant success.
Develin spent the last five games in 2010 and the regular and postseason in 2011 on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad. The Patriots signed him to their practice squad eight days before the 2012 opener and he played one game that season.
But this year he has played in all 12 games, primarily on special teams and as a blocker.
“He’s done a good job of executing his role, whether it’s been offensively or in the kicking game or even as it relates to the scout team in practice,” coach Bill Belichick said. His offensive role has “actually expanded a little bit. I don’t think he’s ever going to be out there for every play offensively. That’s not his role.”
Develin’s favorite role?
Hitting people, whether it’s on special teams or at the goal line.
Playing defense gave him “a little bit of that tenacity, a little bit of that mentality,” he said. “You’ve got to be kind of like a controlled animal on defense so I’ve always liked that mentality on defense so I try to bring that to my game. ... Fullback really allows me to do that because your No. 1 job is to go out there and hit people.”
But so many people on just one play, a play that resulted in his first NFL touchdown?
“He gives everybody confidence that he can do those things,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “Then when you give (the ball) to him and you see a fourth or fifth effort on a score, you want to give the guy more opportunities.
“He really brings the element of toughness to the team. That’s one spot, too, specifically, where the fullback, that’s what that job is. It’s a very selfless position. You’re not going to get a lot of carries or catches. It’s really about springing holes for other people.”
Develin’s touchdown came on just the second carry of his career. He has only three receptions.
So did he do a double-take when a play was called for him to get the ball?
“A little bit,” he said. “It’s not too often that a fullback gets their number called.”
Especially one from a school that sends few players to the NFL. But that’s what Develin wanted, even if he has that engineering degree.
“Football is something that’s not around your entire life,” he said. “I have that degree in my back pocket and that’ll be there with me until the day I die. So I knew that if I didn’t give it my best shot to try and play football as a career, I’d always regret it.
“So I think I took a little bit of a risk and, luckily, it worked out.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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