Sports

He learned the Althoff way early. Then he dominated. Now he’s Player of the Year.

Althoff’s Devyn Nash is the BND small school defensive football player of the year

Devyn Nash earns player of the year honors for his stellar season with the Crusaders.
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Devyn Nash earns player of the year honors for his stellar season with the Crusaders.

Althoff football coach Ken Turner knew of Devyn Nash long before he put on the Crusaders practice jersey and shoulder pads for the first time.

He was a physically mature as a freshman and athletic enough that coaches knew he’d be one to watch.

“The summer before his freshman year, the first days of summer workouts, here is Devyn and he’s out there moving people around,” Turner said recently. “I knew early, his first week as a freshman, that Devyn was going to be special.”

How special? From the Crusaders opening game of the 2014 season against Collinsville to the final game of this past season, a second-round 41-23 playoff loss to eventual state champion Rochester, Nash was a starter on the Crusaders’ defensive line.

Nash contributed in all 48 games during that four-year span. Then, he dominated.

“When I came in as freshman, I had older guys on the team like Bryson Strong, Jordan Augustine, Keenen Young and Rodney Baker who I looked up to,” Nash said. “I admired the way that handled themselves. They were all team guys. I loved playing football to begin with but those guys taught me a lot. They always said to keep your head up, give it all you have every time you walk on the football field.

“That’s the message I try to give to the younger guys now.”

Nash, who was an honorable-mention all-South Seven Conference selection as a freshman, was a first-team pick for the third straight season in 2017.

Voted the News-Democrat Player of the Year, the 5-foot-10, 300-pound Nash made his senior season his best statistically. He had 91 tackles, including 66 solos, 21 tackles for negative yards, and nine quarterback sacks.

Nash v. Rochester
Althoff's Devyn Nash (53) pressures Rochester quarterback Danny Zeigler (10) during the 2015 Class 4A playoffs at Lindenwood University-Belleville. Justin L. Fowler The State Journal-Register

For his high school career, Nash had a hand in more than 200 tackles and added 16 quarterback sacks.

Nash has been a key component of Althoff teams that went 40-8 and qualified for the playoffs the past four years.

“Devyn is a winner who has become a better football player each year, and he was pretty good when he got here,” Turner said. “Since I have been at Althoff, Devyn was probably the most dominant player through a four-year span that I have ever coached.

“He played on some very good football teams here with kids who are playing at a pretty high level. For him to be able to stand out the way he has, it really says something.”

Learning to be a Crusader

An advanced player who competed in leagues with older kids while growing up, Nash wanted to attend Althoff to “get a great education.” In the summer of 2014, he competed in his first preseason and began his first semester of classes at Belleville’s Catholic high school.

The period of transition was made easier by Nash’s talent on the football field, he said.

“My freshman year I came I came in and it was a challenge, but it wasn’t really one either because I grew up with these guys,” he said. “ ... I liked playing football at Althoff from the start. I just loved it.”

Nash’s career got off to a strong start. He had 16 tackles for a 7-4 team that advanced to the second round of the playoffs. As a sophomore, the Crusaders reached the Class 4A state-title game in 2015 before losing to Chicago Phillips.

What makes him so good is that he’s fearless, dominant, explosive and he understands how good he is and how good he can be. Devyn is never cocky, but he’s always confident.

Ken Turner, Althoff football coach on lineman Devyn Nash

“For his size, and when you look at him, you may not think he can move, but Devyn has got good speed and he’s quick,” Turner said. “What makes him so good is that he’s fearless, dominant, explosive and he understands how good he is and how good he can be. Devyn is never cocky, but he’s always confident.”

After a heartbreaking loss to Rochester in the state quarterfinals a year ago, Nash took on the leadership role as a co-captain in 2017. Althoff finished 9-2, losing to South Seven Conference rival Centralia before falling to Rochester in the postseason for the second year in a row.

“This year I was a captain and I took that responsibility with everything I had. This year was just different though,” Nash said. “Last year we had a lot of playmakers whereas this years we pushed through it. We had a good team and had a good year and I really loved these guys this year. We worked hard for what we got.

“It was a little disappointing not being able to go on in the playoffs. I really wanted Rochester. I wanted to get those guys back from what happened a year ago.”

The recruiting process

Nash hasn’t received a lot of attention from the college recruiters, but Turner said has an offer from Elmhurst and has been talking to other schools.

“It’s a shame he doesn’t have more colleges looking at him. People talk about his height, but I know how hard he’s worked and know how he dominated at his position,” Turner said. “The thing about this is that if he was 6-4 or 6-5 he would have all the big schools looking at him. They would be breaking the door down trying to get him.”

Nash, who said he hopes to one day become a veterinarian, also is looking at Robert Morris University and Iowa Western.

The upbeat Althoff senior is upbeat about his future.

“I’m not really disappointed I don’t have any more offers from bigger schools,” Nash said. “I just want to play football which is what I love to do. I’m going to have that chance. But the goal is to get my college degree I am thinking I would like to be a veterinarian because I love animals.”

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean

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