Oklahoma State football: Devin Hedgepeth has a bright future without football
Football might not be in his future, but the Cowboys' defensive back is one of the school's star engineering students.
STILLWATER — The pain felt like a defensive lineman had kicked Devin Hedgepeth in the back of the heel.
He tried to take another step and keep up with Darryl Surgent, the Louisiana-Lafayette receiver he was supposed to cover.
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“Then I just collapsed,” he said. “And then I knew.”
Hedgepeth laid on the turf at Boone Pickens Stadium with another torn Achilles, his third in less than a year. His second consecutive season was over before the calendar turned to October.
And now, he doesn't know if he'll ever play football again.
But don't feel sorry for Hedgepeth. He doesn't want that. He doesn't need that.
Because on the OSU campus, Hedgepeth is more than the typical student-athlete. He is, simply, one of the school's top engineering students with a bright future after completing his degree.
This spring, he'll officially be inducted into Alpha Pi Mu, an honor society reserved only for the top 20 percent of OSU's industrial engineering junior class.
“You can look at (the injury) like a freak accident,” Hedgepeth said. “Or you can look at it like, obviously, it's very rare that people tear their Achilles three times in a row. Maybe God's just trying to tell me something.
“I would have never stopped (playing football) on my own, but maybe God's trying to push me in a different direction.”
A trip to the barber shop first sparked Hedgepeth's interest in industrial engineering.
The conversation was, coincidentally, with Joseph Randle's oldest brother, Larry.
Hedgepeth was a senior at Derby High School in Wichita, which is also the hometown of the Randles, and was planning on majoring in business. But Larry told him about his career path and the way industrial engineering could combine management, math and conceptual skills.
Hedgepeth was naturally intrigued. After all, friends, classmates and teammates have often called him a bit of a nerd.
If “nerd” means enjoying learning in a classroom setting — and working hard to achieve his goals there — he'll gladly accept that label.
Hedgepeth credits football with helping teach him how to be organized and disciplined with managing his time.
He even uses the same mental approach with his schoolwork as he does with football. Each class is a practice. Each test is game day. And his classmates are his opponents.
“You just got to find something to really fire yourself up, make yourself want to study, make yourself want to learn,” Hedgepeth said. “Once you do that, it really is fun for me to just be able to learn and pick up on stuff.”
Camille Deyong, who was Hedgepeth's professor for intro to industrial engineering, quickly noticed that work ethic. Though Hedgepeth was generally quiet and unassuming in class, if he raised his hand, his question was one that needed to be asked.
“He is on top of it,” Deyong said. “He's listening, he's reading ahead and thinking about it. I don't know how he does it, quite frankly.”
Those feelings were only solidified when Deyong, the adviser for the Alpha Pi Mu honor society, received a list of the newest induction candidates this fall. There were no more than six juniors who had qualified. Hedgepeth was one.
“He would be a poster child for industrial engineering,” she said. “He is just the epitome of what you would want the student-athlete to be.
“I wish we could clone him. With or without football, we would take 100 Devin Hedgepeths.”
Even with all that success in the classroom, Hedgepeth's last 15 months have featured their difficult moments.
He had never been injury-prone. Until last year, his worst injury was a dislocated growth plate in his ankle his freshman year of high school. Even then, he played in a game and went through a couple practices before seeing a doctor.
But he knew what was likely ahead when he was helped off the field on that September Saturday. He had first torn his Achilles almost exactly a year earlier against Texas A&M, then again last December while getting out of bed.
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