Noel Devine took off sprinting Wednesday afternoon on the field where he became famous.
It’s the same field on which he will be honored forever.
During halftime of the Red Knights’ game 7:30 p.m. Friday at North Fort Myers High’s Moody Field, the school will retire his uniform No. 7 as they take on rival Fort Myers High.
“It’s an honor and a blessing,” said Devine, who still holds the Lee County high school record for career rushing yardage at 6,842 yards and touchdowns with 92.
Devine, 27, will become the eighth former Red Knight to have his jersey retired. Two of those players, retired NFL cornerback Deion Sanders and retired defensive end Jevon Kearse, were Devine’s childhood idols.
“Those were the guys I looked up to as role models,” Devine said. “To be up there with them, it’s an honor and a privilege.”
Devine, who graduated from North High in 2006, became the No. 3 all-time leading rusher at West Virginia University and since has played for the Montreal Alouettes and the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. Devine continues to pursue professional football, working to stay in shape under the guidance of long-time friend and trainer LeDondrick Rowe. Speed has never been the running back’s problem as he twice ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3-seconds during Wednesday’s workout.
North Fort Myers football coach Earnest Graham, who played running back at Mariner and whose career rushing record Devine broke, said: “Of all the players who have come out of this area, he’s certainly one of the best.”
Graham paused and then restated his opinion: Devine has to be the best high school football player in Lee County history.
“Everyone was talking about him,” Graham said. “Even in Pop Warner, Noel was making a lot of noise. If Noel had come out of high school now, it would have been unbelievable.”
Devine’s exploits made him one of the first Internet video stars, as his explosive runs and mind-boggling touchdowns were shared across the country. He may have been even bigger if he played today with the emergence of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Devine’s four children – Desirae, 10, Andre, 9, Destyni, 7 and Noel Jr., 3 – will attend the ceremony. So will his fiancé, Candace Chikitus.
“I’m really looking forward to this,” Devine said.
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Joining the club
As part of Friday night’s game at North Fort Myers High School against Fort Myers, the Red Knights will retire former running back Noel Devine’s No. 7 jersey.
Here’s a look at the other jerseys retired at the school:
Johnny Long: No. 35, linebacker
Warren Williams: No. 44, played in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers
Deion Sanders: No. 10, Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback
Richard Fain: No. 84, played defensive back for the Chicago Bears
Jevon Kearse: No. 25, played defensive end for the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles
Tommy Bohanon: No. 42, plays fullback for the NY Jets
Tre Boston: No. 6, plays defensive back for the Carolina Panthers