Divine Deablo had an outstanding career for the Virginia Tech Hokies. Originally signed as a three-star wide receiver in the 2016 recruiting class, it didn’t take long for legendary defensive coordinator Bud Foster to see Deablo belonged on the defense.
Deablo would move to the defensive side of the ball after his freshman season and became a three-year starter on defense.
During his time in Blacksburg, Deablo played in 51 games, making 33 starts, finishing with 206 career tackles and six interceptions.
Deablo’s size, experience, football IQ, and athleticism make him a perfect hybrid defender for today’s NFL. The key for Deablo is finding the right coach.
As Deablo prepares for the 2021 NFL draft, Zach Hicks of SB Nation’s Stampede Blue, sat down with Deablo in a wide-ranging talk that covered his time in Blacksburg, some film study and Deablo’s favorite player — and former Hokie — Kam Chancellor.
I will post Zach’s entire interview with Deablo here. I would encourage everyone to give Zach a follow. He does an outstanding job in not only covering the Colts from all angles, but his film study articles are some of the best out there.
Enjoy. This is tremendous.
ZH: I saw that initially went to Virginia Tech to play wide receiver. How was that transition over to the defense for you?
DD: It was actually a rough transition because before then, I hadn’t played defense at all. I was a quarterback and receiver in high school. The transition was rough but these last three years, I was just focused on improving every day. I still think I have a long way to go. I haven’t reached my ceiling yet so that’s exciting.
ZH: You were able to wear the coveted Beamer #25 jersey quite a few times in your Hokie career. What did that honor mean to you, considering how big of a deal it is at Virginia Tech?
DD: It meant a lot to me. You have to play special teams to get it so, I made sure I was on at least two special teams at all times. I wanted to set the record for having 25 the most times and keep that record forever. I do have the record currently at five times now so hopefully, I can keep that for a while.
ZH: I know you said that transition was tough for you but that all led to something great this past year when you were named a First Team All-ACC player. What did that mean to you considering all the work you had to put in?
DD: It was big to me because it was frustrating not getting any recognition (in prior seasons), not even Honorable Mentions. This past year I wanted to at least make... Of course First Team but I just wanted to make one of the teams. That ended up working out for me and it was a huge honor.
ZH: VT liked to use you all over the place in your career. Where do you think is your best fit in the NFL?
DD: I felt comfortable anywhere. I would say the easiest was in the box but I felt a bit limited down there. I feel like in the NFL they can just move me around and I can do a lot of things. I think that is one of the big things I bring to a team.
ZH: With your size, teams are going to look at you and think of a “tight end eraser” type. Do you feel like that can be a specialized role you could excel at in the NFL?
DD: Yessir I do think I can guard them at an elite level. I played over the slot a lot in my college career so, I was running around with the small guys. Tight ends are bigger of course but they are a bit slower so, I think I match up well.
ZH: I’ve talked to a few hybrid-type guys like you who said they would watch film with multiple position groups throughout the week. What is your lead-up to gameday like as a hybrid? What are you focusing on?
DD: I’m usually with the safeties. Fortunately this past year, our safeties coach was also the Defensive Coordinator. Working with him really helped me out a lot. I watch tons of film on my own though, at least four or five games in preparation for the team we are playing that week. I just look for the small things like what they like to put on first down vs third down, quarterback eyes— what he looks at pre and post-snap, who the favorite receivers are, and even focus on just the tight ends and receivers. I just love watching film and I’m always in the film room (laughs). I like to also know what every player on our defense is doing too, especially in the back seven. That way I always know what they are doing and I can help out in certain situations if need be.
Talking some Kam Chancellor
ZH: I feel like I already know who you are going to say, judging by the fact that you are a Virginia Tech safety wearing number 17, but who do you model your game after?
DD: (Laughs) Yeah you are correct when you say that. Kam Chancellor. I look up to him actually. He has hit me up a couple of times on social media, a very nice dude. I haven’t met him yet but hopefully, I’ll meet him one day. He is the type of guy that impacts everything on defense. I’m working on getting up to his level but he’s a stud.
ZH: What is my team getting when they spend a draft pick on Devine Deablo?
DD: You are getting a team-first guy. A lot of guys will say that, but I think I’m the ultimate team-first guy. I’m pretty unselfish, and I know that team success comes before my own. I’m big on seeing my teammates succeed and I’d do anything to help the team. If that means playing on all four special teams and starting on defense, that’s what I’ll do. Whatever we need to do to win, I’ll do that at the end of the day.