STILLWATER — Handling the pressures of being a student-athlete at an NCAA Division I school can be a daunting task, but combine that with being a parent and it might be too much to handle.
Not for Devante Averette.
The Oklahoma State University senior linebacker has been balancing his time as a father and student-athlete for more than five years. Since leaving his home state of Michigan to play football, Averette has been to school in Iowa and now Oklahoma, all while remaining as close as possible to his son, who remains in Michigan with his mother.
It’s not been easy being away from his son, especially during this third and final fall in Stillwater. Thankfully, technology has made it easier to connect with his son and that’s kept their relationship close, according to Stillwater News Press (http://bit.ly/2d3W1jJ ).
“It’s tough, but me and his mom work together,” Averette said. “He knows why I’m away. We Facetime each other every day before he goes to school and after he goes to school. I still miss him physically, but the Facetime helps.”
The Stillwater and OSU communities have also helped Averette through this tough time. The 5-foot-11, 230-pound linebacker has enjoyed his time in Stillwater because of this.
“It’s been great, especially the people around the community,” Averette said. “It’s not just football fans, but regular people. They treat you with nothing but respect. There’s a great vibe and great environment for children. My son was down here this summer and they treated him like family. It’s good to be in Stillwater.”
However, like all good things, his time in Stillwater must come to an end. Averette graduated in the spring with an education degree before returning in the fall for his final season at OSU. Although his plans after the season are up in the air, Averette plans on returning to his hometown of Detroit, Michigan, and spending time with his son before pursuing the next step on his career path.
“After the season, I’m definitely going to see him a lot,” Averette said. “He comes down to a few games. My time off — during the bye week — I’ll go back home. It’s good, but I would love more of it, in due time.”
Upon his return to Detroit, Averette and his son will likely continue their close relationship, which involves the pigskin.
“He’s definitely a football guy,” Averette said. “He does footwork drills with me and he’s very disciplined. He’s just a great kid, having fun being a kid.”
In addition to football, Averette and his son are also beginning to share a bond with boxing. It’s a sport Averette did — and did well at — during his youth. Now, he’s passing it down to his next of kin.
“It’s a family tradition,” Averette said. “It started with my great-grandfather and it trickled down to his son, and then his son and then me. My older brother does it, too. My son, he’s going to start next year. It’s just a family tradition.”
Averette started boxing around seven or eight years old and competed until he was 17. He finished his youth boxing career a perfect 36-0 with 33 knockouts, he said.
“I need to see some proof of that,” OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer joked. “My man Devante could embellish that a bit, I’m not sure. I wouldn’t want to get in the ring with him, but I’d have to see some of his competition.”
Averette stands by his record and the sport he loved as a child.
“I definitely enjoyed it,” Averette said. “It was fun. It was a lot of hard work and teaches you to be self-motivated. It’s a mind game, more than a physical game.
“I watch it all the time. This past weekend, I watched Canelo Alvarez fight and he knocked his guy down three times. Canelo — that’s a bad dude right there. He’s a bad dude.”
When it came down to what sport to continue after high school. Averette’s mother spoke up. She wanted her son to play football — a sport where he earned all-state and all-conference honors at Melvindale High School.
“It was tough,” Averette said. “My mom, she wanted me to play football. I was just an athlete. I was heavy into basketball at one point and then started football. It was just something that I picked.”
Following high school, Averette attended Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa, which was a long way from his home in Michigan. He excelled during his time at Ellsworth CC and earned a scholarship, choosing OSU over West Virginia.
However, his fight continued. During the 2014 preseason, Averette suffered an injury that sidelined him for most of the season. He played in only two games and was able to earn a medical redshirt.
A year ago, he came back with vengeance. He played in every game of the 2015 season, finishing 10th on the team in tackles, despite playing the majority of his time on special teams or as a second-team linebacker. He recovered a fumble for a touchdown on the opening possession of the UTSA game before making two crucial sacks against Kansas State that helped OSU edge the Wildcats at home last year.
“Devante, one word you can say is intense,” Spencer said. “That’s probably how he was raised with his upbringing. You saw that from week one when he came here. He’s always loved to play the game. If a kid doesn’t love football, he can’t be very successful, and he loves to play and compete. He’s hungry to be great. This is a year he’s working through some mental things, scheme wise, he couldn’t grasp his first year, but he starting to grasp them now and that’s why he’s been more productive.
“Our upbringings define us and how we’re raised in the tough situations we’re put in. I’m sure that has a lot to do with the intensity he brings on the football field.”
Despite the toughness and intensity, Spencer also said Averette has a fun personality.
“Sometimes he is and sometimes he’s a silly little kid,” Spencer said. “He’s got a great personality. He knows he’s got to be a good dad and that’s what I admire about him.”
Averette’s teammates also speak highly of him.
“He’s a great guy,” safety Jordan Sterns said. “He’s like a big brother to me. I call him ‘uncle’ because he acts like an uncle would act. He’s just a great guy and you can see that with the way he handles his relationship with his son. He’s just a good dude.
“He’s definitely more mature than most guys on our team. You can see that by the way he carries himself. That’s pretty much why I call him uncle. He’s a mature guy and knows what he wants.”
Defensive tackle Vincent Taylor said Averette is a leader on the Cowboys defense.
“He really gets the defense going,” Taylor said. “He’s got a lot of energy and he takes his craft very seriously, so when you think of Devante, you think of a guy who brings energy to your defense.”
For the next nine games and possibly a postseason game, Averette will continue to be focused on football. After that, he’s not sure, other than being a father.
“My uncle calls me about it all the time,” Averette said. “I see my little cousin — he’s about 10 years old — and he’s a champion. Then he’s had a boxing match in Ohio this past weekend and he won. They always call me about it all the time. Football takes a lot above the shoulders, but boxing takes all you can have, so I’ll see.”