Patriots fullback, James Develin, isn’t quite a household name outside of New England. Although he should be. On Tuesday, Develin was honored with his first Pro Bowl selection. He joins Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Matthew Slater as the only representatives of the defending Super Bowl Champions.
“I was honored”, said Develin on his Pro Bowl selection. “You know, it still really hasn’t hit me. Just to be considered for it, I truly appreciate it… There’s a lot of really good fullbacks out there. You look around on roster and it’s a really talented group.”
Develin’s journey to the NFL and in particular, the Patriots, was not a normal one. At Brown University, Develin played defensive end. In his senior season at Brown, Develin registered 53 tackles, five sacks, one interception, and two forced fumbles. During his tenure at Brown, Develin was honored as a second-team All-Ivy twice in his sophomore and Junior years.
Develin’s professional career began with a stint with the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgs of the Arena Football League. He then spent time in the United Football League with the Florida Tuskers. This is when he made the switch from defensive end to fullback. Eventually, he entered the league as an undrafted signee of the Bengals. Develin joined the Bengals practice squad and remained with the team through the 2011 season. However, he never saw the field in a regular season game.
“That was another very good learning experience,” Develin said in 2012. “I spent a lot of time watching film and going through practice, and it was very valuable spending time behind Chris Pressley, who is a great fullback. I shadowed him and how he played the game while learning from a great coach in Jim Anderson.”
Develin was one of the final cuts prior to the start of the 2012 season. After a very brief time as a free agent, the Patriots came calling. Develin signed to the Patriots practice squad in early September of 2012. By late November, he was promoted to the active roster and made his NFL debut in an early December game. By the start of the 2013 season, Develin was named the starting fullback for the Patriots.
“It’s awesome being here,” said Develin in 2012 on joining the Patriots. “I really appreciate the way that the Patriots run their organization. They really value hard work and I’m just happy to be part of the team.”
Much of Develin’s perseverance can be attributed to his love of football. That love was instilled in him from his father, who was also a football player. The younger Develin admired how his father carried himself and wanted to emulate that himself. Both on the field and in life. In the end, football has been the driving force behind a lot of it.
“It’s the greatest team sport ever created,” said Develin.”It takes all 11 guys, on every single play, to get the job done. That camaraderie is something you can’t find anywhere else.”
Since being named the starter at the beginning of the 2013 season, Develin has been active for nearly every game. Develin missed the entire season in 2015 after breaking his leg in the preseason. Aside from that, he hasn’t missed a game. In that time, he has established himself as the premiere player at that position. His ability to do multiple things in different parts of the game truly sets him apart. On top of it all, he is a devastating blocker.
“He’s got a strong body and he can take contact and he can give it out, too,” said Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick. “He’s tough and he’s got a good mentality. He likes contact.”
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It wasn’t long after becoming the Patriots starter that he was rewarded with his first Super Bowl championship. At the conclusion of his second full season as the starting fullback, Develin hoisted the Lombardi after the Patriots epic come-from-behind win over the Seahawks. En route to the championship, Develin caught his only career touchdown to date. After a lost season in 2015, Develin once again hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. His second title in three seasons. Not bad for an undersized defensive end from Brown University.
Now, approaching the end of another season with the Patriots, the prospect of adding a third Super Bowl is a reality. In fact, it’s more probable than not that that occurs. For now, Develin can relish in his first Pro Bowl selection. A sign that others outside of the six states of New England are starting to take notice. When it is all said and done and he hangs them up for good, he hopes he can have a son so he can pass down the love of the game to him. Just as his own father did for him.
“It’s long, humbling, and so worth it,” Develin said. “I can’t wait to have a son and start him in football and watch him through everything. Football is a game that will teach you so much and I’ve valued every single second of it. I love it.”