Devonte Fields, a dominant linebacker and edge rusher out of Arlington Martin, could be working hard preparing for Sunday football.
Had he declared for the NFL Draft after his junior season at Louisville, Fields most likely would have been selected by a team in need of a dynamic defensive playmaker. Instead, he chose to stay with the Cardinals for a final year. This week, he has been preparing for Saturday’s matchup against No. 2 Florida State.
“I wanted to stay because I feel like we have a chance to win the national championship this year,” said Fields, who also wants to complete his criminal justice degree before he pursues any NFL dreams.
This week, Louisville moved up three places to No. 10 in the AP Poll, giving the game in Kentucky a top-10 billing and even more hype. ESPN’s College GameDay will be in Louisville leading up to the 11 a.m. kickoff.
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22.5 Tackles for loss by Devonte Fields in 2015, which was tied for second in the nation.
“It’s fun, but all of the GameDay stuff is for the fans,” Fields said. “All of us players just need to do our jobs, just like any other game. On defense, we want to lock them up. They are the No. 2 team, and we know we will have to stop the run first and make them pass. Then we need to put pressure on their quarterback.”
While slowing Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is not a small task, Fields flourishes in pass rushing opportunities. He led the country last season in tackles for loss per game (1.73) and was tied for second in total tackles for loss with 22.5, half of those coming from sacks.
“I just have a feel for it, and I can’t really explain it,” said Fields when asked about his ability to track down quarterbacks.
Fields isn’t the only high-level college defender out of Arlington Martin. Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, also a former Warriors player, is a top NFL prospect at defensive end. The two faced off in the 2015 Music City Bowl, with Louisville and Fields coming out ahead.
“It was cool to for us both to be playing at this level and meet in a bowl,” said Fields, who had eight tackles, including three sacks in the 27-21 win. “We talked after the game, just said ‘What’s up?’ ”
Fields started his college career at TCU but was dismissed from the program after an arrest on an assault charge and TCU honor code violation. After a year at Trinity Valley Community College, he committed to Louisville, where he has created a new home. Instead of focusing on his past, Fields is looking ahead, working to keep improving his game.
“I’m never satisfied with where I am,” said Fields, who already has eight tackles and a sack this season. “I like to study film, know what I’m doing on the field. I make sure I’m focusing on just doing my job.”
Against Florida State, that will include slowing down Heisman hopeful Cook and then dropping quarterback Deondre Francois, who already has 681 passing yards and five TDs this season.
“We just have to follow the game plan and execute,” Fields said. “None of this will mean anything unless we win.”