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Dedmon making his mark on Tribe football

  • Stopping on a dime
    Stopping on a dime  DeVonte Dedmon is W&M's leading receiver this season.  Photo courtesy Tribe Athletics
  • Above the fray
    Above the fray  DeVonte Dedmon (11) leaps over Virginia defenders during the Tribe's game with the Cavaliers earlier this season.  Photo courtesy Tribe Athletics
  • Touchdown!
    Touchdown!  DeVonte Dedmon goes high to pull in touchdown pass against Virginia. He has five TD catches this season.  Photo courtesy Tribe Athletics
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DeVonte Dedmon personifies the phrase “One Tribe, One Family.”

A sophomore who graduated from Williamsburg’s Warhill High School, Dedmon stayed home rather than accept scholarship offers from James Madison University and the University of Richmond for several personal reasons.

One, his cousin, B.W. Webb, played for William & Mary from 2008-12 before being drafted into the National Football League. Webb’s mother and Dedmon’s mom are “very close,” and Webb’s mother told DeVonte's mother that, academically, there was no finer place to attend.

Finally, there was Dedmon’s relationship with the Tribe coaching staff, which started years ago when Dedmon would attend the Colonial All-Pro Football Camp during the summer and rub elbows with stars such as Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Michael Vick and Drew Brees.DeVonte Dedmon

“I’ve known these coaches forever,” he said. “They’ve been like fathers to me. I was like, ‘This is the family aspect, and I need it.’”

Thus far, things couldn’t have worked out better for Dedmon and the 15th-ranked Tribe. Heading into Saturday’s crucial game with ninth-ranked JMU, Dedmon is an established weapon in an offense that is averaging 31.3 points per game. He leads the team in receptions with 32, and he owns half of the Tribe’s 10 touchdown passes.

{{youtube:medium:center|YuIVMG1sz18, Previewing the James Madison game}}

“He brings a suddenness to the offense,” Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “He’s got very good speed, but he’s quick.  He’s on you so much, can dart in and dart out, so those types of things help us a lot.”

Laycock knew he was going to shift Dedmon, who is listed at 5-feet-10, 185 pounds, from running back to receiver once he enrolled, a move that Dedmon endorsed. He never looked at last season as anything but an opportunity to learn a new position and to “do anything I could for us to win.”

Early on, that meant primarily returning kickoffs, a task he handled exceptionally well, averaging 30 yards. Late in the season, however, he achieved a rare milestone.

He started a game at receiver, making him the first freshman to do so since Terry Hammons in 1991. It turned out to be his best performance of the season, despite missing the fourth quarter with an injury. Dedmon totaled 174 all-purpose yards, including a 30-yard touchdown reception and a 77-yard kickoff return that preceded another score.Dedmon was too quick for New Hampshire.

“For him to get in there and play as a freshman was a significant thing,” Laycock said. “But we made that call pretty early in preseason last year because we felt like we couldn’t afford not to have him in the lineup because of his ability.”

Again, the Tribe family came to his aid as he made the adjustment from the backfield to wideout. Tre McBride ’15 and Sean Ballard ’15 took Dedmon under their wing.

“Tre taught me how to come out of my breaks,” Dedmon said. “I’m a faster guy so I need to help the quarterback out a little more. (McBride) helped me get out of my break faster so I can break off a defensive back and get open.”

Adding to the educational process, which all sides concur is far from complete, was then first-year assistant Winston October. Nonetheless, the progress has been impressive, and often characterized by spectacular plays.

Against Delaware on Oct. 3, Dedmon fielded a kickoff at the 10, blazed past all but one defender whose tackle attempt he stepped through at the 30. Remarkably, he raced virtually alone the remaining 70 yards, no blue jersey within 20 yards of him, until he slowed down entering the end zone.

Dedmon has a knack for finding the end zone.Against New Hampshire two weeks later, quarterback Steve Cluely threw a pass to Dedmon, who was surrounded by four defenders. He made the catch at the 5-yard line, juked one player out of position, broke an arm-tackle by another then dove into the end zone to cap a 29-yard scoring play.

“I got that close, and I told myself I can get stopped now,” he said.

There are nuances to the position that Laycock and Dedmon agree are still to be learned. That makes him the rule, not the exception, the coach added.

“This year we’ve asked more of him than last year,” Laycock said. “We’ve put more on his plate as far as different receiver positions and things like that. He’s handling it well.”