Congratulations MJ! Content courtesy of the Trib HSSN:
MJ Devonshire might be too humble to rank himself among the high school greats from Aliquippa, but his accomplishments speak for themselves.
As a senior, he guided the Quips to a state football title, led his basketball team to the WPIAL playoffs and won two gold medals at the PIAA track championships, making the Kentucky football recruit the TribLive HSSN Boys Athlete of the Year.
Devonshire scored 24 touchdowns for the PIAA Class 3A football champions including eight on punt returns. If that wasn’t enough, he was a 17-point scorer in basketball season, and celebrated 100- and 200-meter state titles in track.
What’s your best memory from your senior year?
“Winning the state (football) championship. I remember the talk coach Mike (Warfield) had with us before the game. It was a personal thing. He was telling us how he knew we’d been working for this all our lives since we were younger. He named individual things that each one of us did well. It was powerful and we were ready to play from there.
“And then when we were up 35-0 and approaching the end of the game, we were on defense and I looked at Larry (Walker) and he starts yelling: ‘It’s not over. Our high school career is not over, we’re still playing.’ … Everybody was emotional. We were playing football together for the last time. He made tackle and he just sat there and looked at me and was like, ‘It’s going to be over.’ Right then and there we knew that our last moments at Aliquippa were approaching.”
What makes Aliquippa football different?
“Pride. It’s all about pride. You don’t want to be the team that’s looked at as the weak link. Every team that comes in wants to be a state champion but they also want to be the best Aliquippa team ever. You come in with that mindset.
“People set three goals: conference championship, WPIAL championship, state championship. You’ve got to accomplish at least two of them, but that’s people outside the locker room. Inside the locker room you have to accomplish all three. Winning WPIALs and losing states isn’t a good season, wasn’t a successful season. My freshman year we won WPIALs and lost states, that season was a bust.
“It’s all or nothing at Aliquippa. When you start playing at 4 or 5 years old, you’re taught to win championships.”
Is there a sense of relief or satisfaction that you’re able to graduate as a state champion?
“It definitely is because there are only three groups in Aliquippa that achieved that in football. We always say that when you’re at the table, only certain people can talk to each other. When you bring up a state championship, there aren’t many who can say: ‘Oh yeah, I won.’ Winning your last game together as brothers is the most satisfying thing you can ever do. Twelve years later when you’re older, you can look back and say I won my last game.”
Did you keep any souvenirs from your high school days?
“I’ve got a football from one of our regular games … the state championship game ball and the freshman (year) state championship game ball.
Did you take any of them to Kentucky?
“It’s all down here. My jersey and all of that is here.”
Can you explain the Tommie Campbell tradition for Aliquippa sprinters?
“We call it the fastest man in the hood. Everybody calls Tommie the fastest, so you’ve got to race him to earn that title. But he only races people who are in the 10.8s and under. He doesn’t race anybody unless you’re in the 10s. But he actually gave the tradition to me, so I’ve got to uphold it.”
Note: Devonshire broke Campbell’s WPIAL championship meet record in the 100 meters.
You’ll come back to Aliquippa and race?
“He handed me the torch. The last time we raced he said he’s not going to do it anymore. Anybody that wants to consider themselves the best has to race me. I’ve got to look and do research and see who in Aliquippa is going to race me next year.”
What have you done with Kentucky so far this summer?
“We have 6 a.m. workouts, seven-on-sevens two times a week, individual meetings, all that.”
What’s the difference between high school and college workouts?
“Workouts are more specific to you. They know what you need. In high school you’re just working out to work out. You’re learning techniques for all different things. Now all the DBs do things linemen might not do. In high school you had linemen doing pull-ups. Here, why would I have a lineman trying to pull himself up? All of our lifts translate into something on the field that we’re doing. We’re not just lifting to lift.”
Some people seemed surprised you picked Kentucky. How would you describe the reaction you received?
“I got a lot of different types of reactions. It just depended on the person. I still get people in my Twitter inbox that say I left the family talking about Pitt. I get some people who are happy for me. It’s just about who I choose to listen to. If it’s not positive, I let it go in one ear and out the other.”
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope to be in the NFL. I used to want to run in the Olympics but I doubt it will be in five years. But I definitely see myself in the NFL as a starter and a key player on a team.”
Will you run track at Kentucky?
“I’m still thinking about it still. I’ve got all summer. I don’t know if I really want to, but I’m thinking about it.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .