HELENA, Okla. — Devon Kent isn’t afraid of returning to the football field.
Kent, a senior running back at Timberlake, suffered two major injuries in the last three seasons. He tore his ACL in the midst of a playoff run his sophomore year and broke his collarbone at the start of his junior year.
He wants to give everything he has to Timberlake. Everything except fear.
“I feel like there can’t be,” Kent said. “If I played scared, then I won’t be able to play to my full potential.”
His most recent injury came in the second week of the 2018 season, against Ringwood. In the home-opener against Covington-Douglas, Kent rushed for more than 200 yards. While a dominating performance, the Wildcats still defeated the Tigers 44-36.
Timberlake head coach Brian Severin said during that game, he made the mistake of telling his assistant coaches, “let’s hope Devon’s around next year.”
The following week, Kent broke his collarbone. It happened during Timberlake’s drive to the red-zone. On a toss sweep left, Kent took the ball to the two-yard line before being driven out-of-bounds by a defender.
But his tackler landed on his back and drove Kent’s shoulder into the ground. All he heard was a “pop.”
“I couldn’t really move my arm,” Kent said. “I didn’t know what happened at first”
When healthy, Kent has been a major contributor to Timberlake’s offense, both as a receiver and as a running back. As a freshman, he nearly reached the 1,000-yard mark as a go-to target for his then-quarterback Joey Najera.
In a game against Sharon-Mutual during that 2016 season, Kent caught 13 passes, five of which resulted in touchdowns.
“He’s just so athletic,” Severin said. “He just does so many different things for us. He could play any position that we’d ask him to play and when you take that out of your offense, that’s a big blow.”
As a sophomore, Kent racked up around 1,200 yards from scrimmage during a season in which the Tigers reached the semifinal round of the Class C state playoffs. Kent came into his second season with a sense of confidence. After turning in a breakout year as a freshman, he couldn’t wait to start his sophomore year.
“Our whole team was returning except for two seniors, so everybody would have that much more experience,” Kent said.
Timberlake rolled to an 8-2 regular season, good enough for third in District C-1. The Tigers handily defeated Mountain View-Gotebo in the first round of the playoffs with a 56-0 romping. All year, Timberlake’s huddles broke down by repeating it\s main objective.
“What’s the goal?”
The championship was palpable that season. The Tigers reached the semifinal round after defeating Coyle, 32-18, but the victory came at a cost. Kent tore his ACL, ending his year. Though he wasn’t at fault for his own affliction, Kent was angry with himself.
“I just didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I let my whole team down because I couldn’t play that next game.”
Timberlake wound up losing to the eventual state champion, Tipton, 56-8.
The ACL tear hurt Kent the most.
“Not being out there with the team,” he said. “Not being able to do my part for what we had worked so hard to do.”
His teammates never left his side throughout each recovery process. When he was healthy enough to workout and run, Kent’s teammates were there to push him. But they were also there to make him feel as if nothing changed after his injuries. A group of Tigers would often drive into Enid to hangout at Wings To Go.
“That made me think that I was still a part of the whole thing,” he said. “Even though I couldn’t play.”
Heading into his senior season, Kent’s back to full health. He was a frequent target for Timberlake at Covington-Douglas’ passing camp last month, making plenty of catches and was able to make cuts off his once-injured leg.
“I’m feeling confident,” he said.
Severin said Timberlake’s approach to its senior tailback will be limited touches at first in the preseason without a lot of time played during scrimmages.
“Maybe one or two series,” he said.
Each player is different when returning from injury. Severin said he’s seen some players either “fold up” or choose not to return at all. The real question after enduring an injury is how will a player respond?
Will Kent be gun shy or will “he get after it?” The question is a no-brainer for Severin.
“He’s a competitor,” Severin said. “He wants to compete. I see him having a pretty good year, really.”
As a person, Kent is “quiet” and “shy,” Severin said. As a football player, there’s no reservations.
“When he gets on the football field he means business.”