During a four-year varsity career at Douglass, Devon Bridges attracted plenty of college interest but actual scholarship offers were slow to materialize.
When Villanova took a chance on the middle linebacker after the 2008 season, Douglass Coach J.C. Pinkney told the coaches at the Football Championship Subdivision school they were getting a steal in the honorable mention All-Met.
“Devon was an animal for us, man,” Pinkney said by phone this week. “Coming out, he had one of the most impressive highlight tapes for a defensive player of anybody we’ve had here.”
Bridges backed up Pinkney’s assessment by becoming a two-year starter in the middle of the Wildcats defense. After a senior season in which he led the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and was named second-team all-conference, the 6-foot, 250-pound linebacker is once again trying to beat the odds, preparing for a possible pro career.
Bridges had his chance in front of pro scouts at the school’s pro day and a regional combine in Baltimore. He hopes he’s done enough to earn a free agent contract or at least an invitation to an NFL rookie mini camp.
“I was sure I really wanted to do this a long time ago,” said Bridges, who played in the Maryland state tournament all four years in high school. “I love football too much to just quit. Most people are good at football, they’re athletic enough to play, but it’s not a passion. For me, I love playing football. It’s what I’ve been doing since I was six. I think that shows when I play.”
Bridges has devoted the past few months to getting faster, trying to show NFL scouts that he has the range to play one of the most demanding positions at the game’s highest level.
While finishing up his coursework for a degree in communications, he has been working out with Jeff Morgan of Summitt Sports Training Center in Villanova. The linebacker has lengthened his stride and worked meticulously on his starts in the 40 yard dash. He said he clocked in just under 4.8 seconds in the 40 during his combine workout in Baltimore.
Bridges believes he has the strength to make the jump to the pro ranks. During max out day in the Villanova weight room before this past season, he posted best marks for his position in dead lift (515 pounds) and squat (495).
Last month, he managed 18 bench press reps at 225 pounds at the school’s pro day before a group of scouts that included representatives from Philadelphia, New Orleans, Seahawks and Kansas City.
Ultimately, Bridges hopes for the chance to let his play on the field decide his future. With four years to grow in Villanova’s 3-3-5 scheme, he said he’s taken a more cerebral approach to defense, building on the raw talent that once earned rave reviews from Pinkney.
“The physicality of my game hasn’t changed,” Bridges said. “That’s still Douglass to this day.”