It was a wet Saturday afternoon in Norfolk, Virginia, midway through the second quarter of Appalachian State’s matchup against Old Dominion. The Monarch’s quarterback Shuler Bentley dropped back to pass, wound up to throw, and the ball slipped out of Bentley’s hands, rolling right into sophomore linebacker Devan Stringer’s chest.
Stringer took care of the rest.
“I seen the ball squirt out, so the first thing I could think was scoop and score,” Stringer said. “That’s all I thought. I gotta give shouts out to the other 10 guys. They were behind me blocking and Latrell [Gibbs] was trying to chase me down. It gave me a little extra boost on the run.”
Stringer would take the ball 77 yards to the end zone to extend the Mountaineer lead to 21 on their way to a 49-0 win over the Monarchs.
That was one of many impact plays that Stringer has made for the defense so far this season. In six games, Stringer has tallied 25 total tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, and the aforementioned fumble recovery touchdown.
Stringer said he believes his understanding has improved, and that has allowed him to make more plays.
“Now that I’m actually more acclimated with the position, I’m comfortable enough to go to the next level,” Stringer said. “I don’t have to think ‘OK, what am I supposed to do?’ I can think ‘Hey, I know what I got to do. Now, what’s the offense doing?’”
Stringer’s speed is another tool he has put to good use this season.
“It allows him to help us in coverage as well as rush the passer,” junior linebacker John Law said. “His speed allows him to beat blocks and pick up that fumble and go all the way to the end zone.”
Law has seen firsthand how fast Stringer, who was a running back in high school, truly is.
“I was actually happy he picked it up and not me, because I knew he had the speed to go all the way,” Law said.
Another trait that has led to Stringer’s improved play is his emotion. While away from football, Stringer said he considers himself laid back, but once he hits the field it is a different story.
“I just wear my heart on my sleeve, and I let everything hang out because I’m with my brothers,” Stringer said.
In the Mountaineers 31-13 victory over Wyoming earlier this season, Stringer’s emotions were more obvious than ever after the defense allowed the first of two touchdowns.
“It just makes me so mad when another team scores, because I know how hard we really push ourselves during the week,” Stringer said. “I feel like nobody should have a chance to score on us. Period.”
Stringer’s energy and emotional nature have had a positive effect on his teammates.
“He’s definitely one of them that brings passion to the game,” Law said. “That fuels us.”
Head coach Scott Satterfield said that he wants his players to be emotional but not to let it affect their play on the field.
“We go out there and play hard every single snap,” Satterfield said. “You’re going to have ups and downs in a game, but you have to stay even keel. We want our kids to play with emotion, and he’s that way. Really, our whole team’s that way.”
For Stringer, his life away from football has been much more emotional than he planned.
Earlier this season, Stringer’s 11-day-old daughter, Noelle Marie Stringer, passed away. Afterward, Stringer quickly turned his focus back to football, not missing a game.
“He wanted some sort of normalcy in a quick way, so we were able to give that to him,” Satterfield said. “Our players support him. We support each other. It’s a family atmosphere here, and it’ll always be that way. He’s a good person, a good player and we’ll continue to be there for him.”
Stringer said that the team and the university have been an outstanding help.
“It means so much to me and my family how much they helped us out,” Stringer said. “I don’t know where I would be without the App State family, so my heart goes out to them. I’ve been very thankful.”
Story by: Colin Tate, Sports Reporter