Jan. 9, 2012
By Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune
FRESNO, Calif. - Devon Wylie could be a poster boy for never losing sight of a dream. In the Roseville area, he could be THE poster boy.
Wylie, a 2007 graduate of Granite Bay High School and former Sierra Foothill League MVP, continued his football career at Fresno State, but it was wrought with setbacks. Hamstring and ankle injuries caused him to miss four games each in his sophomore and junior seasons, 2008 and '09, and led to a redshirt season in 2010.
But Wylie rehabilitated the hurts, went at it hard on the field and in the weight room, led the Bulldogs in receptions this fall, had two high-profile punt returns for a touchdown, regained his 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash and now has his sights set on the NFL.
There is no if or doubt in Wylie's voice. It's when. He moved down to Irvine on Monday, as it turns out, to train. Wylie signed with an agency and is being represented by Bruce Tollner, son of longtime college and NFL coach Ted Tollner, in preparation for future NFL combines.
"That's when teams start getting their eyes on you," Wylie says while watching Stanford play Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl on Monday night and talking about what he hopes will become an NFL career. "From what I understand, special teams is my specialty, so to speak."
Wylie has done his homework. He can play receiver and slot. He knows NFL teams travel with four or five receivers, one of whom handles kick and punt returns.
He also knows NFL teams covet speed, so he has worked on his technique and explosion. The speed he had in his junior year -- "The fastest I had been," he says -- has returned. Wylie said he's been hand-timed in a sub-4.3 in the 40.
"I'm getting back into the groove," he says. "Speed kills. You gotta work on your speed."
All the injuries and road blocks were erased with Wylie's impressive redshirt senior year. He caught a Fresno State-best 56 passes for 716 yards and one touchdown. Wylie registered 100-yard receiving games against Nevada and Louisiana Tech, and he caught 13 balls against Tech.
Wylie returned 29 punts for 446 yards, and his 15.38 yards per return led the Western Athletic Conference and was fourth in the nation. He returned two punts for a touchdown, a 67-yarder against then-No. 10 Nebraska and a 79-yarder against then-No. 5 Boise State.
"It was lots of fun, first of all, and I was very excited to be able to specialize on special teams," Wylie says. "It helps the team and helps in going to the next level."
The punt return against Nebraska lit a fire inside Wylie. He recalled the punt being "very returnable," longer than it was high. He caught it with forward momentum, took two steps left, hit the first crease as hard as he could, made it through the first line of defenders, made two guys miss and took it to the house.
"I was just really hungry to do well," Wylie says. "Every punt return from there was dangerous. That just showed me what I could do."
It showed others, too. Wylie earned a third-team All-America honor as a punt returner from Yahoo! Sports and was an honorable-mention All-American by Sports Illustrated.
Wylie finished his Fresno State career with 2,331 total yards, 10 touchdowns and even 16 tackles. His numbers included 98 receptions for 1,327 yards and eight scores.
All the while, Wylie kept an eye on his alma mater, which won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship in the fall.
"I was very excited to hear that," he says, adding that he and Granite Bay coach Ernie Cooper stay in contact. "He's probably my favorite coach of all time.
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