Changes are afoot for Devaughn Brown.
The Waukegan junior is starting to plan his future beyond high school and has decided to make adjustments.
“Last year I used to hang out with a lot of negative people,” Brown said. “This year I’m closing down that circle. I want to be close with people who want to go someplace in life. I was immature.”
The timing isn’t a coincidence for Brown, a three-sport athlete who wants to play football at the next level.
“This is an important year for me, just being a junior and focusing on playing in college,” he said.
On the field, the 6-foot-2, 152-pound Brown played quarterback for the Bulldogs (0-9) out of necessity last season, and he struggled at times. He has moved to wide receiver, where he is much more comfortable.
“I can make a lot of plays at wide receiver,” he said. “Every ball I have to go up and get it and make a play.
“I love playing wide receiver, whether I’m blocking, catching the ball — everything about it.”
Before official practices started Monday in Illinois, Brown participated in a camp in Atlanta this summer. He said he feels good about his performance there.
“I competed against several Division I athletes in Atlanta,” he said. “It was the best versus the best, but I went out there and played well and got some awards. It showed that I had the skill to play against some of the top athletes. It really helped build my confidence.”
Waukegan coach Zach Carr is glad to have Brown at wide receiver this season.
“He will never admit it, but he was uncomfortable playing quarterback last year,” Carr said. “He knew somebody had to do it. I’d much rather have him at wide receiver. Ever since the end of last season, he’s been working very hard.”
Brown is also emerging as a leader, according to Carr.
“He’s more mature and has taken upon himself to become a leader on the team,” Carr said. “He goes out of his way to connect everybody. He’s made a big jump in terms of maturity and coachability.”
Brown said he has built chemistry with sophomore quarterback Timothy Graddy and that his experience playing behind center last year gave him some insight.
“I could, say, help him read defenses,” Brown said. “Last year I was learning about reading defenses going through the season.
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“I keep telling him to work hard every day to get better and to get ready for the upcoming season. Also, I tell him to play with confidence. I was lacking that last year. I tell him to trust me and the other wide receivers to make plays.”
Graddy appreciates Brown’s input.
“We meet up outside of practices so he can run routes and to get the chemistry down to a T,” Graddy said. “He also helps me a lot with accuracy and my timing on routes on different zones.
“I can’t wait until the season starts. The coaches put in more passing plays for us to run.”
In another change for Brown, he expects to get on the field in other phases of the game this season. He said he couldn’t play defense last year because he had to stay healthy enough to take the snaps at quarterback. The Bulldogs, who start the season with a home game against Round Lake on Aug. 25, have one win in the past six years.
“This year, I can go play defense and special teams to help the team out a lot, not just play one position,” he said. “I really love football, so it should be a fun year. Coach Carr wants the best for each and every player on our team. He pushes everyone to be the best they can be and is also a great father (figure) to me.”
Bobby Narang is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.