It’s not where you start; it’s where you finish.
Coming out of Manchester High School, Princeton alum Seth DeValve ’16 was an accomplished football player, receiving all-conference and all-state selections for his play. However, the start to his athletic career at Princeton was relatively slow, as he recorded only one reception with limited playing time as a wide receiver in 2011.
In 2012, DeValve flipped the script and found his stride. As a sophomore, he logged 20 receptions for 219 yards while playing in all 10 games. Building on that momentum, DeValve upped his play yet again in 2013 and produced his best season as a Tiger, more than doubling his previous numbers with an impressive 49 receptions and 527 yards. This landed him in the nation’s Top 50 for receptions and Top 100 for receiving yards, all while propelling Princeton to its 10th Ivy League championship that saw records broken in both scoring and total offense. The team scored 50 points five times on the way to an eight-game winning streak.
DeValve found similar success in his final two years, but had both seasons cut short due to injury. In his last game as a Tiger, he went out in style and racked up nine receptions for 110 yards against Dartmouth. After his 2015 season, he was awarded the Ronald A. Rogerson Award, which goes to the player whose spirit and passion for the game have served as a special inspiration to his fellow teammates. That radiating love for football is exactly what allowed DeValve to etch his name into the history books and make his mark at Princeton, ending his memorable career ranked 10th all-time in receptions (122) and 13th in receiving yards (1,336).
In 2016, DeValve declared for the NFL draft and was selected 138th overall in the fourth round by the Cleveland Browns, making him the highest drafted Princeton football player in the modern-draft era.
Bringing that same confident attitude that he adopted at Princeton, DeValve said at minicamp, “My goals and expectations are to contribute, a lot — offensively, special teams and any way the coaches find fit.”
He scored his first touchdown that same year on Nov. 10 against the Baltimore Ravens.
The following season, DeValve made headlines with his actions off the field, becoming the first white NFL player to kneel during the national anthem. In 2017, kneeling for the anthem became a topic of major controversy as players across multiple sports leagues began participating in the practice. While largely intended as an act of solidarity to highlight the social injustices experienced by people of color, some saw it as disrespectful to the United States and its military.
When asked about his decision to kneel, DeValve maintained that he held no disdain for the United States or the anthem, instead stating, “The issue is [the U.S.] doesn't provide equal opportunity to everybody.”
DeValve, whose wife is African-American, further highlighted, “I myself will be raising children that don't look like me, and I want to do my part as well to do everything I can to raise them in a better environment than we have right now. So I wanted to take the opportunity with my teammates during the anthem to pray for our country and also to draw attention to the fact that we have work to do.”
Since his time with the Browns, DeValve has moved between a few different practice squads before landing with the Arizona Cardinals this past November.
Although his NFL career has not seen too much action just yet, DeValve’s journey is far from over as he continues to make an impact that goes beyond football and addresses major social justice issues.