No one knows how many receptions UL redshirt sophomore wide receiver Devon Pauley is going to get before the end of the 2020 season.
But when the highlight film of this Ragin Cajuns campaign is made, the former Barbe High standout will certainly be responsible for one of them maybe even the very first one selected.
It was a drive late in the second quarter with his No. 19-ranked Ragin Cajuns down 14-0 at the time. Cornerback Mekhi Garners interception halted Georgia States momentum, but suddenly ULs offense was facing a fourth-and-10 on the Panthers 42.
Under intense pressure, quarterback Levi Lewis began scrambling. He somehow found a receiver down the field before getting hit and Pauley turned into a circus grab in heavy traffic for a 19-yard gain.
Teammate Chris Smith caught an 18-yard touchdown pass on the next play and the Cajuns were now back in it on their way to a 34-31 overtime win.
The overall theme for the 2020 season thus far for the No. 19-ranked UL Ragin Cajuns applies also to the special teams.
Ran a dig route the safety played it good on me, Pauley described. I was covered up and I saw Levi scramble to his left, so I scrambled back and he scrambled back to the right. I cut back and he turned and made the throw. I knew I had to go get it fourth-and-10.
Somehow thoughts from his formative years in Lake Charles began ringing in his head.
My high school coach used to always say, Youre number is going to eventually get called, so when it does, be ready to make a play, so I know I had to make a big-time play, Pauley said. I knew it was going to be contested. I had to go up and be strong and make a catch.
In two games so far, Pauley has two receptions for 35 yards. Both came at the end of the first half, both were highly contested by defenders and both ignited critical scoring drives.
We actually ran it twice, Pauley said of the other grab at Iowa State. We ran it the first time and coach Nape called it again. I guess he saw the coverage they were playing two corner, safe down and I flattened it off the safety and Levi made a great throw. I knew it was going to be a contested catch, so I tried to keep my hands strong through out and get my feet down.
Certainly, he made his wide receivers coach Tim Leger proud with both efforts.
That relationship also hearkens back to Pauley growing up in Lake Charles. Leger played and coached at McNeese State. His son, Gunner, played wide receiver at Barbe.
I went to a couple of McNeese camps (growing up), Pauley said when asked if he knew Leger prior to joining the program. We get along well.
At first glance, ULs 34-31 overtime win over Georgia State on Saturday was totally different than the season-opening win over Iowa State.
A week before that first game at Iowa State, the 5-8, 174-pound receiver was actually in Lake Charles with Leger on the campus at McNeese State.
It was unlike any trip home he had ever taken.
About a week before the visit, Hurricane Laura ravaged Calcasieu Parish with devastating winds. So Pauley was a natural candidate to be one of 56 members of ULs team to unload a huge truck filled with food and cleaning supplies for those in need in his hometown.
Its heartbreaking to go back to your hometown and not even recognize your hometown, Pauley said. It meant everything to me that coach Nape allowed us to do that and the other sports that came along with us, help out and provide for Lake Charles.
Pauley said his mother Susannahs home was so damaged that shes moved to Crowley. His younger sister had to transfer to Notre Dame.
His father Lens house survived better than most, but his car dealership business was destroyed.
ATLANTA It was one of the most unique weeks in the history of ULs football program.
I dont know if Barbe is going to open again this year, Pauley said in describing the damage to his old high school.
Barbe High isn't just a school building he visited most days during his teenage years.
For Pauley, it was so much more. His grandfather, Jimmy Shaver, was the Buccaneers head football coach for three decades. His home suffered tree damage as well in the storm.
I was blessed to grow up around football, Pauley said. I used to get my mom to bring me to Barbe to watch practice from the time I was in kindergarten until I started playing in middle school. I just learned the game very well. I can pick up and learn play books fast. I was very blessed to be able to grow up around football and be able to learn quickly.
So those instincts of where to run when Lewis was scrambling on fourth-and-10 this past Saturday and that toughness required to catch the ball in traffic didnt come by accident.
The value of preparation was learned honestly.
1. Napier displayed incredible patience
Its just, offseason, Pauley said. We had the voluntary workouts and wed stay as long as we could before we had to get out. Wed just work on routes and timing. Wed just talk through situations. We always talk about if Levi gets to scrambling, just scramble and stay in his vision. If he sees you open, hell make a play.
While many around the country were too distracted by COVID-19 and several other big issues over the summer, Pauley remained focused on football.
Thats also something he learned growing up in Lake Charles.
When he was 12 years old, his older sister, Hannah, committed suicide as a result of bullying getting out of hand. Thats something hell never forget.
I go out every day in practice, I go practice hard for her, Pauley said. Every game I play is for her, every snap is for her .. bigger than football.
To this day, he wears HP under his eyes every game. Those initials honoring his sister are a tattoo on his inner bicep as well.
So whether hes in Ames, Iowa or Atlanta, Georgia, pieces of Lake Charles are always with Pauley.
Sure, he played a role in the Cajuns earning the programs first AP Top 25 ranking since 1943.
ATLANTA With all the effort, emotion and endurance it requires to carry an offense on your back in an overtime period after four quarters of
Yet, Pauleys celebration is tempered by the reality of whats going on in his home town.
Its hard, he explained. Its stressful. I dont want to (pause) If I need some money or something, its hard for me. I dont want to ask my mom, because I know shes going through all that. My dad, hes still .. it (storm) basically took his job. Its stressful, but I try to focus on the things I can focus on and control the things I can control stay focused on the game because I know my teammates need me.
Football being the oasis in a turbulent world isnt a new concept for Pauley. Lake Charles taught him to utilize that mechanism.
Its definitely been hard, he revealed. I just try to control what I can control. Football is kind of an outlet for me. It always has been through the tough times. I lost my sister when I was younger and football has just always been an outlet for me.
I can go out to practice and clear my mind. The games are just theres nothing like a Saturday night, theres nothing like a Friday night. You cant exchange that for anything. Its definitely been an outlet for me.
Pauleys perseverance in the sport doesnt just keep him going. The walk-ons dedication constantly inspires his teammates.
I think Devon has been one of the more inspiring players on our team, UL coach Billy Napier said. Devon isnt the biggest guy, but hes extremely intense, focused very deliberate and intentional with everything he does. He works extremely hard in the weight room and conditioning program and hes been a very effective player for us.
Certainly hes tough and fearless. He has character. He comes from a great family of people. Hes a guy that just shows up and does his job. He might not be what youd expect, but the guy can do it. I admire him and certainly hes been a great example to a lot of our players about what can be done if you go about it the right way.
Perhaps giving some he knows back home in Lake Charles a reason to smile again.
ATLANTA Its going to be the year of unexpected unavailable players. On Saturday, that was Cajuns senior outside linebacker Joe Dillon. He d
UL's Devon Pauley helping Cajuns make historic strides, while thoughts always with Lake Charles - The Advocate
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