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PPDC 65 | Walk-On


After serving in a church mission, Devaughn Vele felt inspired to return to football. He was then offered to come to the University of Utah as a walk-on. In this opportunity, he was expected to work even harder to earn his spot. After years of dedication and practice, he finally got a scholarship and even became one of the premiers and probably one of the top five receivers in the entire country.

Tune in as Dan Clark talks to University of Utah star player Devaughn Vele who shares his journey of serving in a church ministry and jumping back into playing football. Find out his amazing work ethic allowed him to surpass players who already secured scholarships. Discover how he stays humble and true to the people who supported him in his career, giving you a clear roadmap to achieving your own dreams today!

Devaughn Vele Shares What Inspired Him To Serve A Church Mission And Return To Walk-On As An Eventual Football Star At The University Of Utah

This is an interview with the University of Utah football star Devaughn Vele. Each and every single week, I bring you an inspiring message with an extraordinary human being who will share their secrets on how you can tap into your personal power to become everything you were born to be. Thank you so much for spending some time with me.

In this episode, the University of Utah football star Devaughn Vele, basketball and football star at Rancho Bernardo High School in Southern California, All-League on his state championship team, and invited to play in the Polynesian All-American Bowl and All-Star Football Classic who only received two scholarship offers from small schools, shares his life and extraordinary family influences that persuaded him to serve an LDS church mission and return to walk on at Utah where Vele quickly earned a scholarship and asserted himself as one of the premier receivers in the nation, giving us an inside glimpse into the physical, mental, and emotional preparation required to make spectacular catches and be a superstar on and off the field.

This episode is brought to you by the amazing Siegfried & Jensen. Not only do they support our community as a law firm, but they are cut-and-dried University of Utah Runnin’ Ute fans. Thank you so much.

Welcome. I’m interviewing the superstars from the University of Utah football team. I’ve had a chance to interview Grammy Award-winning songwriters, billionaires, the guy who started Priceline, and sharks from Shark Tank on TV. I’ve had such an extraordinary experience with Derek Hough from Dancing with the Stars and Elizabeth Smart. I’ve had some of the most incredible guests over the course of my show, but this special edition, where I have a chance to lift the covers and get behind the scenes and into the locker room and the heads and hearts of these football players has been a highlight for me having played at the University of Utah football and baseball back before any of you were born.

This interview is with Devaughn Vele. It’s Polynesian for stud muffin hunka burning love. I’m so pleased to have him on my program because he comes out of North San Diego. We’re talking Vista oceanside area. He went to Rancho Bernardo High School. Vele is the real deal. He’s not putting on a show on the field any more than he puts on a show off the field. He’s the same young man. He’s handsome, articulate, and smart. He’s on the Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll. Here’s the crazy thing about you, my friend. You are a walk-on. Your height and weight are what?

It’s 6’4 and 205.

When you came out of high school, you were?

I was 6’2 and 185.

Did you have blazing speed? What was your ace in the hole? What was your superpower?

It’s playing the ball. One of those things is catching anything that goes my way. That was my staple in high school.

You weren’t a speed demon. You didn’t break any 100-yard records like our new quarterback Johnson. I’m an old Raider guy. Fred Biletnikoff, on his best day, ran an 8,640, but he caught everything within his grasp. A dear friend who has since passed away is Todd Christensen in Raider. I still think he should be in the Hall of Fame. He would catch 60 passes. He was a tight end because they knew that no matter where they threw it, he would come up with the ball. That’s the reputation we have in the stands of my 50-yard line vantage point and in the huddle talking to every one of your defensive players.

We were laughing with Junior. He said he appreciates you on third down knowing that when that’s third and long, they’re going to throw it to Vele. He’s like, “We don’t have to go back out on the field for three more plays.” What a hoot that everybody on your team knows you’re the money guy. Throw it up. You will go for the ball. When in the world did you learn that about yourself? You put your eyesight on something. You have the ability to do what you have to do. In other words, it’s not enough to say, “I will do my best.” We must succeed in doing that, which is necessary. Take us back to your youth. That’s a unique talent.

It first starts with me and my dad. We used to throw the ball when I was a kid. He would go in front of the house and throw it. I remember that he always told me, “The ball touches your hand. You have to catch the ball. No excuses.” I’ve lived by that. I don’t know if people see it, but in my head, even if there is a ball where it is overthrown, it’s a quarterback’s fault. If it touched my hands, I take it personally because I think to myself, “I should have caught that. With the fact that it touched my hands, I should have caught that.”

You must always catch the ball if the ball touches your hand. No excuses. Click To Tweet

I’ve lived by that standard my entire life. I felt like that’s what helped me as a walk-on as well because I told myself, “It’s not enough for me to be catching the balls that everybody can make. You have to catch the ones that nobody else thinks you can make.” I feel like that’s what helped me so much as a player helping me in my advancement and growth as a wide receiver. I’m going to continue to live by that no matter what the future brings to me.

You reminded me of when I was playing. We had this kid who was on a ski team at the University of Utah who won the NCAA year in and year out. He has never played football because of his leg strength as a ski racer. He shows up for spring ball. He’s a wide receiver. They give him some cardboard pads and a helmet with a face mask. He’s one of those dudes. They didn’t take him seriously.

I still remember him getting in line and going out for the pass. He would dive for every single ball, no matter what. All the scholarship guys are flipping his crap, “Come on. Hang out. What are you doing?” They were making fun of him. He was one of the slowest guys in line, but he dove for every ball, and he ended up getting a scholarship. His name is Graham. He was an All-Conference wide receiver. His best 40 time was 65 or 197. He was one of those slow guys in the huddle.

They’re like, “35 dive right on 3. Graham, go on one.” He was one of those dudes, but because of that heart and because he dove for every pass and was relentless, they had to give him a scholarship. He started and then became All-Conference. Look Dick Graham up in Ute history. That’s your reputation. You walk on out of high school. Did you have any scholarships coming out of Rancho Bernardo High School?

I did have a couple. I got an offer from Dixie State in Southern Utah.

Was that D2 or D3?

It’s D1AA.

That’s Southern Utah state out of Cedar City. Why did the two Southern Utah schools come calling, and you didn’t have anybody in California come calling?

I have no idea.

Your team won the CIF championship. You got some pub. People knew who you were. You could catch everything. Talk to us. I want those young men and those families that don’t think their kid has a chance because he didn’t get scholarship offers to hear what our conversation is about. Your heart and work ethic got you your scholarship and stardom. 2022 is an unbelievable season as probably one of the top five receivers in the entire country.

After we won the state championship, I had this feeling, “This is what I needed to get my publicity out to get that exposure I needed.” We won a state championship and played against dudes that already had scholarships. I’m like, “I have the film to put out. The schools are going to start coming and calling.”

You played against Devin Lloyd.

I played against Devin Lloyd and Terrell Burgess back in high school.

Isn’t that great? Keep going.

I sent my tape out to a lot of schools. A lot of them didn’t reply to me, or if they did, they always told me the same thing, “We already gave out all our scholarships. You’re a little bit too slow. You could walk on if you want to, but you’re not what we’re looking for.” I took that personally because there was a lot of hard work that went into that championship season.

In my high school, that was the first time we had ever won a state championship game in the history of our school. You can ask any of my high school teammates. All of us were bought in that year. The year before, we went to our actual divisional championship game and ended up losing. I remember when I was going into my senior year. We were juniors at that time. We said, “We need to finish the mission.” That was our motto, “Finish the mission.”

We were bought in. Everybody was working hard, especially me behind the scenes. A lot of people don’t know this except me. I was putting in a lot of extra work. I would go to practice and then have a trainer that I would go train with right after practice to make sure I could get that extra work in because I wanted to go to college, but the biggest thing is I wanted to get a free education.

PPDC 65 | Walk-On

Walk-On: A lot of high school athletes would put in a lot of extra work and practice so they could not go to college for free. No one wants their parents to pay for their tuition.


I didn’t want my parents to pay for my tuition. That’s what was motivating and driving me. It was very crushing to get to that point. I didn’t get the offers that I wanted. I was grateful that Dixie State in Southern Utah offered me, but in my heart, I felt like I could play at a D1 school. I knew my capabilities and my talents. I was like, “I can compete with these dudes.”

It was a setback moment for me. It humbled me, and because of that humbling experience, it made me turn toward God. That’s when I realized maybe a mission is a thing I have to do because growing up, when I was a kid, I didn’t plan on serving a mission. I was a convert. I and my mom converted to the LDS church. I was a go-with-the-flow kid growing up. If my parents told me I had to go to Mutual or a seminary, I would go, but I didn’t want to go because of myself. I felt inadequate, but I felt like this was a moment where God was like, “You need to remember who comes first.” That’s why I decided to serve a mission. Honestly, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

You went to Samoa.

I have to go back home.

You went into the mission field as a boy and came out as a man. What happened?

The things I experienced on my mission could not fit in one episode, but to water it down, you learn to be independent fast. You have to mature fast. You’re out on your own. In my case, in a foreign country, I was of Samoan descent, but I didn’t speak the language. I understood, but I couldn’t speak it. I had to learn a whole new language and help people by teaching about Christ through acts of service, going to church, or anything like that.

You’re eighteen years old, trying to talk to a bunch of grown people and trying to tell them about Christ. You have no professional background on anything about that. It goes to show how much a mission helps you mature. It’s a maturity level. That’s what helped me even transition into college because I felt like there was no transition at all. I know a lot of freshmen talk about, “It’s hard being away from home.” Try being away from home for two years, and you only get to talk to them on Christmas and Mother’s Day.

Going into a church mission helps you mature as a person. Click To Tweet

Let’s tie that into folks who are not of our religious tradition. You don’t have to go on an LDS mission to learn what you learned on your mission. The University of Utah football program is not founded, grounded, or influenced by anyone’s specific religious tradition, but the amazing reputation of Utah’s football program is the family feeling. Converting TEAM together, everyone achieves more FAMILY or Forget About Me, I Love You. The gang and the coaches are famous for turning 2-star athletes into 4-star athletes and 3-star athletes into 5-star athletes. Where do you think you were coming out of high school? What star would they have put on your forehead?

I don’t even think they have a picture of me on the star list. It might say, “Not applicable.” I don’t think I had any stars coming out of high school.

You turned yourself into a four-star recruit by going on a mission, getting away, and learning what you needed to learn. What would you advise young men to do before they get out of high school to prepare themselves for the transition into college when they’re not from your religious tradition but still need to learn what you learned on your mission that did turn you from boy to man?

It’s that theme of maturity. I see it a lot in the freshmen that come in, especially with me being in the program for the past few years. When I look at the freshmen that come in, I can see the difference between their maturity levels and when I was a freshman because I had that mission experience. They come in. They were the best athlete on their team.

They didn’t have to work. Everybody else wasn’t as good as them. They were like, “I’ll show up to practice and game day and ball out.” College football is not like that at all. They learn that fast. Some people take it well, and some people take it bad. Some people can’t embrace it because it’s uncomfortable. It’s the first time they’re ever dealing with something like this. I see it in them.

If I had to give advice to any of the young men that are coming up and are about to go to college, it’s being coachable. People get the wrong idea of being coachable as being a kiss-up, “I always listen to the coach.” They view that as bad, but you have to realize that if you want to play, you have to be coachable. If the coaches don’t trust you, you’re not going to see the field, no matter how good you are.

Once freshmen learn that, get out of the little bubble in their heads, and stop thinking, “I’m the best,” it’s more so like, “I have to keep working, keep getting better, and keep doing this because the guy behind me is going to come up and take my spot if I don’t.” I noticed that freshmen who learn that fast end up playing on the field. That’s why you see guys like Cole Bishop, Nate Richie, and Clark Phillips. They came in. They were already mature. You see it on the field.

They’re self-starters. They proved true.

It’s not just the talent itself. It’s coachability. That’s the thing I am trying to point out.

If you’re disciplined, you don’t have to be motivated. When the coach says jump, you say, “Yes, sir. I’ll do it.” Through your work ethic and fame, you come a little early and stay a little late. You catch more balls than anyone at practice.

Take it personally if somebody is out on the field longer than you.

That’s Kobe Bryant’s Mamba mentality. You come off your mission, and now the world is your oyster. How do you choose the Utah program to walk on?

I got back from the mission. I started trying to reach out to colleges to try to test my luck. I was doubting my options for playing. I didn’t think I would play again. I was getting ready to start going to school, getting my degree, and going on from there. I talked to a few schools. Not a lot of them got back to me except two schools, which are BYU and Utah. Those are the only two schools that got back to me.

Here’s a shout-out. I call him my uncle because, in the Polynesian community, you always call everybody uncle. Frank was a GA on the Utah coaching staff. I remember that he gave me the opportunity through one of my cousins that I was staying with out here in Utah. He sent my film to the recruiting office. They’re like, “Take a look at this kid and see if he could walk on.” That’s all I was asking for. I wasn’t asking for a scholarship because I had just gotten off the mission. I haven’t played ball in two years. I wasn’t expecting a scholarship, but I wanted to see if they would give me an opportunity.

I gave them my film. They were like, “We never heard from you. If we would have known about you in high school, we would have offered you.” I sent my tape, but it’s cool. It’s fine. They were like, “You don’t even have to go to the tryouts. You could walk on.” It was in January. They were like, “We have winter conditioning starting on this day. Be here if you want to be a part of this school.” It went off from there.

Here’s what Coach Rudy said behind your back and in front of you when I asked him. After they saw your work ethic and that you did outwork anybody diving for balls that no one else couldn’t catch, they said, “We need this kid on our team.” Here’s what Rudy said, which is so beautiful, “We didn’t know what position you were going to play. We knew you were a baller and an athlete. We will fit you in somewhere.”

Tongue in cheek, we all know Coach Whittingham never recruits an offensive player. He always looks at every player in the country and the world as a defensive player. You walk on, play a couple of games, and catch two passes for twelve yards. That’s a hot stat, yet they offered you a scholarship after that minimal game-time experience. That talks about practice. Why do you love to practice so much when so many guys say, “It’s only practice. We know who’s famous,” yet your rep is that you practice harder than you do in games? The game is the reward for how hard you put in your work during the week.

I resonated with that story you were talking about with Dick Graham because I was the same way. As a walk-on, you can’t be as good as the scholarship players. You have to exceed them in every aspect, whether in film study, running routes, listening to the coach, or being coachable. If you’re making plays that they’re making, there’s no way that you’re going to get a scholarship.

PPDC 65 | Walk-On

Walk-On: As a walk-on, you can’t afford to be just as good as the scholarship players. You have to exceed them in every aspect, or you will never get a scholarship.


You have to go above and beyond. That’s how I viewed it in my eyes. I said, “I notice the scholarship players aren’t diving for the ball. I’m going to dive for the ball.” I took it personally. I see them where they let it go over their heads. They’re like, “I’m not going to reach that.” I’m showing on film that I’m going to go for every single ball. It’s funny because that’s what set back my possibility of getting a scholarship.

I broke my collarbone doing that. During fall camp in 2019, I was supposed to get my scholarship then, but the day I was supposed to get it, I broke my collarbone diving for a catch during fall camp. I made the catch, which was great, but I remember when I hit the ground and the impact. I felt a pop in my shoulder, but I didn’t even know I broke it.

I got up over there, jogging back to the huddle and getting ready to run the next play. Everybody is saying, “Good job,” and all that stuff. I’m trying to clap my hands to break out of the huddle, and I can’t lift my arm. I went over to this trainer. He was like, “You broke your collarbone,” but even after that, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve injured myself diving for the ball.

The coaches keep telling me, “You need to stop diving.” Even in the position I’m in now, they’re like, “You’re a big-time player. We need you to play smart,” but it’s hard for me to get out of that mindset because if I don’t do it in practice, I’m not going to do it in the game. That’s how I grew up. It was the foundation that I used to set up when I was a walk-on. I don’t want that to change because I’m on a scholarship.

That’s your reputation.

That’s what I live by. That’s always what I’ve focused on. Even now, I’m trying to get back into my roots of doing that because I notice I’ve fallen off a little bit. I’m not diving as often as I used to. I don’t know if it’s because the bones are getting a little bit older, but that’s one thing I always remind myself. One thing my parents always taught me is to be humble and remember where you come from. I remember that I came in as a walk-on. I appreciate the publicity and the stardom. Everybody is saying, “We love Vele,” and all that, but I’ll always remember that I was a walk-on. I don’t want that to ever change because once I start getting comfortable, then that’s when everybody starts passing me up.

One of my great friends in the world is Rudy Ruettiger. They made the movie Rudy. His foundation awards the NCAA Walk-On Player of the Year. I’m going to have to give him a little phone call to make sure he’s aware of you and that you’re on his radar because your story is phenomenal. I’ve shared this with other interviews, but I’m still fascinated by the statistic. I’ve interviewed all the top NFL coaches, NCAA coaches, and the Nick Sabans and the Urban Meyers of the world. They will tell us that winning or losing a football game boils down to six plays. Have you ever heard that?

I haven’t.

You come to the game with me. On the ride to the game, you say, “Shut up,” because I’m saying, “We have to look for the six plays.” We’re sitting there the whole game. I’ll always say, “Was that one of the six plays?” They want to stick a J Dawg in my nose, but on the ride home, the discussion is powerful, “What were the six plays that determined winning or losing that game?”

In the game against Arizona, it could be the fumble on the goal line. I won’t throw any Ute under the bus. It could be the fumble of the punt returner for Arizona when it started to rain. Nobody in their right mind could have caught that ball because of the piercing rain in your eyes. It’s a fun experience about deciding what those six plays were and agree. Here’s why I’m bringing it up.

You block when you’re not in the play. You run a pattern. I watch you. You run meticulous and disciplined patterns even if you don’t think you’re going to get the ball. What I want to ask you is this. Every time you line up, regardless if you’re in the slot or you’re wideout, do you believe that there’s a chance you’re going to get the ball? Do you believe that it’s a run, and your block would make the difference, so you better not ever take one of those plays off because you don’t know what the six plays are going to be?

Nobody is perfect. There are going to be times when I won’t do that. It ends up being the play where your guy makes the tackle. That’s the worst feeling you can ever have. I had one of those in the Arizona game. In the one play where I was a little bit lackadaisical on, he ended up making the play. It snapped back in my head. I was like, “Let’s get tidied up. Don’t forget what you have to do.” That’s one thing I love about the offense that we run as well. Anybody can get the ball. You have to truly believe that.

That’s one great thing I love about Cam too. Coach Lud says, “This guy is running for the love of the game. That’s the pattern.” In practice, Cam will throw it to you because you’re open. That’s one of those things that keep you on your toes. Every play I run is like, “I could be getting the ball.” It’s one of those things. Personally, it’s something I’ve been working on this season. I have a long way to go. I still have a lot of things I have to tidy up, but I want to get to the point where it’s not one of those things that’s like, “I could get the ball.” It’s like, “I should be getting the ball.”

Don't think that you could be getting the ball. Think that you should be getting the ball. Click To Tweet

I want the team, the quarterback, everybody, and even the coaches to have that confidence in me to where when a play is called, it’s like, “It’s going to him.” I feel like that’s how it is when Brant and Dalton are on the field. I want to be one of those guys because when Dalton and Brant are on the field, it’s always one of those things. Everybody in the stands, on the benches, and on the opposing team know it’s going to them. That’s how it is. I always wanted to get to that point. Do I believe I’m at that point? I don’t think so, but that’s what I’m continuously trying to work toward.

It’s interesting how you didn’t step up and make up the loss with Kincaid on the bench. With Kuithe going down, you’ve been a major part of the offense all year long and getting multiple catches in a game, even when both of those guys were healthy. That’s a compliment to you. It validates what you’re saying about the offense. Go through the progressions. I love watching Cam go from receiver. Every once in a while, I’ll see you wide open in the end zone. He doesn’t throw it at you. I want to turn in my season tickets and say, “We have to get a better-looking quarterback.” Let’s talk. We want to get into your personal life a little bit. You’re married. How did you meet her? What’s the love story?

She goes to the U as well. I met her going to one of my uncle’s works at the educational offices and all that stuff. I remember I was going to visit him. I saw her over there. I thought she was cute, but she shut me down the first time I saw her. I wasn’t trying to get her or anything. It was one of those, “I’ve seen you around before.” She shrugged me off. I was like, “That’s a sign.” I should stop right there, but she ended up going to the same singles ward as I did. We started talking. It took off from there.

She is the greatest blessing in my life. She’s always there, being supportive. Marriage life is not easy, but it’s worth it. It’s nice to come home to somebody who’s always going to be on your side no matter if the whole world is against you, especially on those days when I felt like there were critics talking smack about the receivers or something I didn’t do good. The coaches aren’t on my side. You start feeling like the whole world is bearing down on you. You come home, and there’s that one special lady that’s always going to stand by your side. That’s a great feeling to have.

Marriage life is definitely not easy, but it's definitely worth it. Click To Tweet

I’ve been married for many years. She’s a very fortunate woman. This is important to talk about this. Everybody wants to know what’s your pre-game routine. If it’s an early game, you wake up earlier. If it’s a late game, what do you do? What’s the difference? Do you listen to any music? How do you get mentally fired up? In the week, I don’t need to labor at that point. You prepare. That’s your rep. In the training room, you’re taking care of any sores, bumps, and bruises. Let’s talk about the game day. What do you do?

It has been changing a lot lately, ever since I got married, but before I got married, it was more so that I listened to a lot of rap music and anything that was trying to get me going turned up and everything. I felt like it made me antsy. It made me a little bit off the edge. I was a little too anxious. That made me make more mistakes because I was so anxious about how I was in my game prep and everything like that.

PPDC 65 | Walk-On

Walk-On: Listening to rap music or anything that can turn you up can make you a little too antsy or anxious. This can lead to more mistakes on the football field.


One thing I changed in 2022 is a lot more calming. I’m a lot calmer during game day. Instead of listening to rap music, I listened to a lot of old-school music. Growing up in San Diego, there’s a station called Magic 92.5. I used to listen to it all the time with my parents. They used to play all the oldies like Luther Vandross, Bee Gees, Earth, Wind, & Fire, and The Whispers.

You’re bringing tears to my eyes.

I listened to that kind of music before the games. It puts me in a good mood. When you listen to those boogie tunes, you get in a good mood. It makes it more fun, but it also relaxes you. I feel like it calms my nerves a lot. I’m not like, “I have to hit somebody.” It’s more so like, “I’ve got a football game on a Saturday.” Your head is bobbing. You’re like, “I’m vibing.”

Especially with being married, it’s not just about me anymore. I’m not calling out any of the married guys or anything on our team, but I notice a lot of them don’t say hi to their families when it’s around game time. It’s respectable. You’re trying to get ready for the game. Even the coaches say, “Don’t let your family be a distraction,” but I see it as, “This is who I’m playing for.” When I get off the bus, the first person I go to is I go straight to my wife. I give her a hug and a kiss. I say hi to my mom, my dad, and everybody that’s coming to support me.

PPDC 65 | Walk-On

Walk-On: You are playing football for your family. As you get off the bus, hug your wife and say hi to your parents and everyone who came to support you.


It means so much more to your wife if you took out your teeth guard first. I’m trying to coach you a little bit here.

Even when we get on the field for the pre-game warmup, instead of me doing my warmup, I’ll go to the sidelines because she will be on the sideline with a pass. I’ll talk to her and tell her, “How are you feeling?” She will ask me, “How are you feeling about this game? How does it look?” I’ll tell her, “I’m feeling a little nervous.” It’s a lot more calming. Because of that, I’ve noticed a change in my game because I feel like I’m settling into the game rather than me trying to attack it where if it hits me back, I’m shocked. It’s more so that I’m ready. I feel like I could take on anything that comes, whether it’s good or bad. That has been the change in my game plan prep.

I’ve flown all the fighter jets and all the bombers in the Air Force. When you fly a fighter jet, you catch 9.4 Gs, go twice the speed of sound, and land. I asked my pilot, “How did we fly this magnificent high-tech machine?” He said, “By feel.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “You become the plane.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “When you climbed up the ladder and slid into the cockpit, did you strap into the F-18? Did you strap the F-18 onto you?” Watch Top Gun: Maverick.

I already did.

It’s not the plane. It’s the pilot. That’s what you’re teaching me here, my friend. Dr. Henschen was our sports psychologist. He’s world-famous. He had since passed away when I was playing up at the U. I used to return kickoffs and punts too. We’re the same. You’re a tall guy too. You’re the tallest punter in the world, not just in the NCAA but in the NFL.

That’s what Coach Wood told me. I’m taking verbatim from him.

Dr. Henschen helped me understand because, on film, I would be fixing my pads, combing my hair and my helmet as Cam Rising does, and doing all those things. I would lose 40 pounds of water weight from nervousness before he ever kicked it. He gave me the metaphor of a rubber band that you hold in your hand. It’s completely loose, especially for a kickoff.

As you see them starting to line up, you’re starting to stretch that rubber band. As soon as his foot hits that ball, it’s maxed out. You let go and catch the ball. You’re gone. How do you prepare mentally to go out for a pass if it’s raining or whatever the case may be? How do you forget the last play and focus on your pattern and your responsibility, whether it’s to block, run, or pass? Tell us how you focus and block out all the distractions to make it all about you being present in the moment.

It’s a great point you’re bringing up. It’s something I’ve been working on. I’m not saying I’ve arrived or come up with the solution. People always want to ask, “What are the players thinking in the game?” I’m about to give you the spill. I’m a big perfectionist. That’s how I am. I grew up like that. When I have a drop pass, it gets to me badly. In Arizona, for example, there was a pass in the end zone where I could have caught the ball. The fender made a good play, but it’s one of those things. It touched my hands. I should have caught it. I make catches like that in practice.

I remember that when that happened, I was jogging back and starting to get in my head. I’m like, “I missed my opportunity. We’re going to have to run the ball because I’m the only guy out there that should have made the play. I let the team down.” It’s very hard to try to stay positive, but it makes it world of difference when you do. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s worth it because I remember after that happened, I started getting in my head, “People are going to say that this is why we need Dalton, Brant, and people who always made the plays,” but then, I was like, “I need to get that one catch in. I can get my confidence to start going back in.”

It sounds selfish, but that’s how I get my motor going because I want to do anything I can to help the team win. When I drop a pass, it affects me so much because I’m like, “I let down the entire crew. We ran this play for me to get the ball, and I let down everybody.” This is something I’ve been working on, but I know that the thing that keeps me going is that every game, we probably run about 78 to 80 plays. It’s like, “That’s 1 play out of 80 plays. You have 79 other chances to make up for that one miss.”

I noticed, especially with this season, that if you get in your head and get those mistakes out early and brush them off, it’s so much better because you can get the momentum going. The worst thing you can do is keep getting in your head. It snowballs. You drop another pass, miss a block, and start dropping passes, getting in your head and jogging. That’s when the coaches see your body language.

If you start getting in your head, get those mistakes out early and brush them off. Don't let it snowball. Click To Tweet

Remember that out of those 78 or 80 plays, the average play lasts five seconds. You have about 25 seconds to think about it in between the plays. If you can’t control the negative and start thinking positively and getting everything out of your head, it can be a disaster waiting to happen. That’s what all of us need to work on. No matter what your past has been, you have a spotless future. You can’t always control what happens, but you can always control what happens next. In the NIL world of Name, Image, and Likeness, tell us how we can get ahold of you and support you. Do you have a social media handle that we need to know?

I’m not going to lie to you. I’m a little bit of an old soul. I’m not big on social media. I’m in the moment with my family. I don’t go on social media that much. I don’t even have an Instagram. I have a Twitter, but I only have a Twitter for NIL opportunities. You don’t see me posting a lot. I don’t post on Twitter at all. I’ll comment to some people, especially fans, when they try to reach out and say, “We appreciate you.”

Here’s one thing I take into consideration too. Sometimes I run into fans. I ran into a fan in Handel’s. I was getting ice cream with my wife. I ran into a fan. He was like, “Can we get a picture? We don’t want to bother you.” It’s fine. These guys are spending so much money to support us. The least you could do is take a picture with them.

I’m not big on social media, but this NIL thing is new to me. That’s why I have my wife. She helps me a lot. I’ll get the contracts and all that stuff and read it over. I’m like, “It sounds good.” My wife will read it. She’s like, “Did you know this part?” I say, “I’m so grateful you’re here because I would have missed that. I look at the numbers. I’m not paying attention to the fine print.”

I’m trying my best to get accustomed to this. It’s new to me. It’s different. It’s hard to explain, and because of how I grew up being humble, it’s hard for me to try to put myself out there and talk about myself. It feels weird to me because my parents always taught me about humility. I learned it on my mission too. It’s one of those things where I see it as, “I never want to make it all about me.”

The NIL thing is a little bit hard for me to wrap my head around because I don’t like talking about me. I always want to point out, “My wife helps me. My mom and dad got me here.” I like putting the spotlight on other people. It’s not just about me because it’s not like I did this all on my own. There’s a whole village that helped me prepare for this moment.

That’s why we all need to support Devaughn Vele. We need to get behind him because he’s so humble. He is not in the mood to help himself. We’re going to help this guy. When you get that huge NFL contract, which you deserve, I hope you will remember me when you’re rich and famous.

This is probably one of the best shows I’ve been a part of. It’s fun.

You’re such a dude. There you have it, Devaughn Vele, number 17. I want you to share it with every single young man and young woman in high school who needs to understand that when you see an elite athlete on the field, you see so much more than muscle and bone going through motions. You see heart, sacrifice, work ethic, and perfectionism that isn’t always so bad when you feel bad when you drop a pass. If you don’t feel bad, there’s something wrong. If you can celebrate the victories and learn lessons through defeat, you become a fine young man as you have.

Thank you so much.

You make your mama and daddy so proud. I’m proud to be a Ute because of Devaughn Vele. Have a good day.


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About Devaughn Vele

36 career games with 18 starts at Utah.
2022 Pac-12 All-Conference honorable mention.
Began his career as a walk-on in 2019 before being awarded a scholarship in 2020.

2022: Has appeared in 13 games while making 11 starts, ranking second on the team in receptions (50) and receiving yards (595) with five touchdowns along with 26 punt returns for 246 yards.
Pac-12 All-Conference honorable mention.

Has caught at least three passes in nine of Utah’s 13 games.
Recorded a career-high seven receptions for a career-best 94 yards and a touchdown against Oregon State.

Had six catches for 87 yards and two punt returns for 23 yards at UCLA.
Notched three catches for 38 yards and two touchdowns with a career-best five punt returns for 60 yards vs. San Diego State.

Had five catches for 62 yards (1 TD), was one-for-one in passing for nine yards and had a career-long 23-yard punt return vs. USC.
Six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown against Stanford.
Also had a 21-yard punt return vs. Southern Utah.

2021: Saw action in all 14 games with seven starts, recording 23 receptions for 389 yards (16.9 ypc) and a touchdown.

• Career-high four receptions for a team-high 84 yards against USC, scoring his first touchdown as a Ute on a career-long 37-yard flea flicker reception.
• Recorded three receptions for 69 yards at Oregon State which included a career long 45-yard reception.
• Three catches for 57 yards against Arizona State (19.0 ypc).
• Caught three passes for 44 yards in Utah’s win over UCLA.
• Two receptions for 33 yards against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
• Had two special teams tackles.

2020: Played in all five games.
• Two receptions for 12 yards.
• One catch for nine yards against USC.
• Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll.
• Awarded a scholarship.

2019: Walked on the team in the spring, redshirt saw action in four games, starting against Colorado.
• One special teams tackle.

High School: Played football and basketball at Rancho Bernardo HS.
• All-League.
• Invited to the 2016 Polynesian All-American Bowl and the 2016 Alex Spanos All-Star Football Classic.
• 52 receptions for 980 yards (18.8 yards per catch) with 11 touchdowns as a senior, also completed his only pass attempt for a 45-yard touchdown and made two interceptions his senior season.
• 126 yards receiving, two touchdowns and an interception in the state title game.
• 11 catches for 209 yards (4 TD) his junior year.
• Rancho Bernardo won the 2015 CIF Division III-A state title, as well as regional and league titles.
• 2016 National Football Foundation San Diego Chapter Scholar-Leader-Athlete Award.
• 2015 first-team Cal-Hi Sports all-state all-academic and San Diego Union Tribune All-Academic team.

Personal: Son of Efaraima Jr. and Afagaila Vele … served an LDS church mission in Samoa … born in Indiana … name is pronounced deh-vawn veh-lay.


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