At age 15, students like Devin Strange normally aren’t thinking about where they will attend college much less if any are interested in their athletic talent. That traditionally has come a year later when they are juniors.
But in recent years, schools have started offering football scholarships to sophomores, a testament to the competitive nature of major college recruiting. Strange is benefitting from that new model even before playing his first game at Liberty Christian School this fall after transferring from Marcus High School in Flower Mound.
In July, the University of Michigan and Southern Mississippi University told Strange they wanted him to play for them and in August, Virginia Tech did the same. Other schools showing interest include Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon and Colorado State.
“When Devin came on board, our coaches went to work,” said Liberty Head Coach Steven Greek. “He shared he has a dream and a desire to not only play for Liberty but beyond that. Our coaches sent out some tape, video and pictures and through some of their connections when the college coaches saw him they said ‘that kid is only a sophomore? That’s what happened with Michigan (Defensive Coordinator) Don Brown saw him and sent him an offer.”
It’s all been quite overwhelming to the naturally shy son of Kristin and Mike Strange. But those around him aren’t surprised the 6-foot, 3-inch, 215-pound defensive end/outside linebacker is getting noticed.
“We’re excited to have him,” Greek said. “What I’m really thankful for is the way he’s come in and immediately fit in with our kids, some of whom have been here since kindergarten.
“He’s a humble young man. I think he wants to be challenged academically. I think he wants to be pushed on the field and coached hard. As a coach I appreciate that. He didn’t come in and expect any favors. He’s just come in and rolled up his sleeves and gone to work.”
Last year, Strange had 45 tackles, 31 quarterback pressures, 12 sacks and 7 tackles for loss for an undefeated Marcus freshman team.
He said he truly enjoyed his time at Marcus.
“I liked the experience competing for my starting position and seeing how much the varsity players put in,” Strange said.
He likely would have put up similar if not better numbers for one of the Marauders junior varsity teams this year which is among the reasons he decided to transfer to the much smaller Liberty where he will play on the varsity squad.
“It was just a bigger opportunity for me,” Strange said. “They were going to use me more, not at just one position.”
He also liked the smaller class sizes at Liberty which makes it easier to physically distance the desks between students.
His year at Marcus did earn him invitations to play with players from around the country in two special games. The first was last December at the Football University All-American Bowl in Naples, Florida, the other in June at Offense-Defense Showcase Summer Football Camp at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“That was a great experience for me going against the top athletes from around the nation,” Strange said.
That’s a long way from when he first played flag football at the age of 4. When he started tackle football in second grade, he played a little running back and offensive line but has primarily been a defensive end who uses his 4.9-5.0 speed in the 40-yard dash to his advantage.
After a few weeks of conditioning and weightlifting workouts without pads until after Labor Day, Strange is looking forward to the start of official practice in advance of playing Dallas Christian in the season opener Sept. 25. He already is feeling good about his decision.
“I feel like I am a part of a family,” said Strange, who wants to study mechanical engineering.
“There’s no limit if Devin is willing to put in the work which I believe from our observations he will do so, get better and add value to the team,” Greek said. “I think individually and collectively we’re going to be stronger.”