Can HBO’s Hard Knocks Help Pat Devlin Become This Year’s Danny Woodhead?

The former Downingtown kid and Penn State QB gets his chance with the Miami Dolphins.

When I was 11 or 12 years old a bunch of friends and I were planning on going to the movies. At the time, we were pretty much obsessed with The Matrix and Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo, so I’m relatively certain that whatever we were planning on seeing would have turned out to be a terrible film. We never made it to the movies, though, because we asked Pat Devlin to go.

At the time, I was (unimpressively) playing quarterback for the Marsh Creek Eagles. Devlin was doing so with a bit more success. After we knocked on his door, we quickly realized that seeing a movie was little more than a pipe dream. Most parents would have offered us a ride or given us $5 for popcorn. Instead, Mr. Devlin handed us cones and told us to meet him in the backyard so that Pat and I could work on throwing outs and posts. Those extra hours of practice panned out for Pat.

Now, he’s a Miami Dolphin and will probably be part of a major storyline in the upcoming season of HBO’s Hard Knocks. For the past decade, Hard Knocks chronicled a particular team’s training camp—introducing new coaches and highlighting position battles. It’s good for a “child, please” here and there and a ShakeWeight practice or two. But, a huge portion of the show is focused on position battles. This is where Devlin comes in.

When we were in high school, he was an incredible quarterback, but one who didn’t get the same media attention as a popular Christian kid from Florida who was set to become a Gator. Or, for that matter, Mitch Mustain who had committed to Arkansas to follow his high-school coach. Devlin had verbally committed to the University of Miami, but changed his plans when the Hurricanes made some coaching changes.

Eventually, Devlin settled on Penn State and headed to summer session to start working his way onto the field at Beaver Stadium. After a few years of minimal playing time, Devlin had a chance to start in 2008, but senior quarterback Daryll Clark won the job. Paterno said the two would split time, but, really, Devlin only played when games got out of hand. Then, when Clark went down with an injury during a pivotal game against Ohio State in the Horseshoe in October of 2008, Devlin came in and led Penn State down the field, scoring the team’s only touchdown—the game-winner—on a quarterback sneak. Two weeks later, Daryll Clark rushed back from injury and helped the Nittany Lions drop a game—and a season—to the Iowa Hawkeyes. Murmurs on campus about playing time seemed to foreshadow Devlin’s eventual transfer (it didn’t help that Daryll Clark was granted an extra year of eligibility).

So, Devlin headed to Delaware—a top-tier FCS school that had produced successful NFL quarterbacks Rich Gannon and Joe Flacco. It seemed that Devlin would spend two years posting ridiculous numbers as a Blue Hen and then kick ass at his pro day and at the combine to climb back into the middle rounds of the NFL draft.

The draft is a strange phenomenon, though, and Devlin’s stock dropped as mid-April approached. He went undrafted and eventually signed a contract with the Miami Dolphins. Devlin—who spent much of last season on the Dolphins practice squad—is one of four quarterbacks the Dolphins will have at training camp. New head coach Joe Philbin recently said that last year’s starter (most of the time, anyway) Matt Moore, former Jaguar David Garrard, and this year’s first-round draft pick Ryan Tannehill will all take snaps—along with Devlin—for the Fins at training camp.

With two veteran quarterbacks on the roster and an eighth overall draft pick as an early favorite, Devlin will have his work cut out for him. But, Hard Knocks may just be able to provide the spotlight the quarterback has been unable to capture through this point in his career. Just ask Danny Woodhead.