A player once projected to be a first-round NFL draft pick has returned to his home in Arlington, working out at at his old high school while waiting for that phone to ring. Hoping for that phone to ring.
That the NFL Draft came and went without Devonte Fields’ phone buzzing was not a shock. The surprise came in the immediate minutes, hours and days after the draft when no one called.
As a freshman at TCU in 2012, Fields was the Associated Press’ Big 12 defensive player of the year. His old teammate at Arlington Martin, Myles Garrett, went No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Browns.
Garrett was always the better prospect out of high school, but Fields is still a guy who was rated as a first-round draft pick following his freshman year at TCU, before he was dismissed from the school after a domestic violence charge.
“Very disappointed!” said Fields, who finished his career at Louisville, in a Twitter message on April 29.
He later tweeted: “Wish I never went to TCU.” He has removed the post.
The last two weeks have not been easy for Fields. He would not agree to an interview for this column.
Not being a part of an NFL team at this point in his life was not a part of the plan.
Six players with domestic violence issues were drafted. Some of them are still facing charges.
The moral of this story? Don’t get involved in this type of situation, but, if you do, give a team a reason to take the risk. Fields is a casualty of the NFL’s obstacle course of hypocrisy, one that said drafting Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon in the second round is OK, but drafting Fields is not.
Since the incident that led to his dismissal from TCU, Fields, 23, “did all of the right things” and played well enough to merit hearing his name called during the NFL Draft. He is at least is good enough for a rookie free-agent contract.
Fields was accused of punching a woman in the face in July 2014. The case was dismissed on July 2, 2015. He agreed to attend an anger management class.
The original details of the report were disgusting. As is the case with so many of these types of incidents, however, details change. Sometimes charges are dropped, or, in this case, dismissed.
Earlier that year, Fields told police he was robbed and beaten in a struggle involving gunfire. No charges were filed.
One NFL scout I spoke to about Fields said the knock on him was not off-the-field but rather on it. The scout said he thought that enough time had passed since Fields was kicked out of TCU, and that since nothing had happened in Fields’ time at Trinity Valley College and Louisville, NFL teams were satisfied that that portion was behind him.
Per the scout, the risk was that Fields took plays off. That the film was more damning than anything else.
In his first year at Louisville, Fields was an all-ACC pick. He led the team with 11 sacks and the nation with 22.5 tackles for loss. As a senior, he was again an all-conference pick and had six sacks.
Despite all of this and his God-given size to play linebacker (6-foot-2, 236 pounds), the NFL has so far said that Fields’ ceiling is college.
His high school coach, Bob Wager, is trying to work some of his relationships to get a guy he fiercely loves and defends at least a look. Immediately after the draft Wager encouraged Fields to keep working, to get back into the weight room and continue to train.
He’s also working on Fields to finish his degree. He needs three courses to earn his degree, and it’s something he has told friends he intends to complete.
Considering how his career at TCU began, it would be a major accomplishment for Fields to earn his degree.
The NFL does not look like a promising destination right now, but no linebacker has suffered an injury yet, so there is no opening to fill. Someone is going to go down, so Fields may yet get the call he covets.
The former sure thing is now officially a long shot. Most undrafted free agents don’t work out. Neither do most late-round picks.
It’s not over and, in the grand scheme of things, a life full of surprises is just beginning for Fields. It just may not include the NFL.