Made by the Bay: The Troubles and Triumphs of an Oakland Born Wideout

Wide receiver Devond (dev-awnd) Blair Jr. has been attached to Football for 21 years. The game has assisted him in becoming the first in his family to graduate college, and recently landed him in northeast Kansas where he gets paid to play the sport he loves.

All throughout his relationship with football, Devond has had to shoulder the weight of acute challenges in his personal life; the most demanding of them being his duty as a father to his two sons, Devond III (8) and Xavier (5).

At 28 years old, Blair Jr. remains steadfast in his pursuit of the next opportunity to showcase his abilities. A product of the California junior college system, quitting on the field or in life has never been a possibility.

Devond’s athletic journey began with interest in football, basketball, and baseball. After watching his childhood hero run up and down the gridiron, Devond went the same route.

“Watching my big brother play and be successful at the game made me want to follow in his steps” said Blair Jr. in an interview with NFL Draft Diamonds.

Devond had early experiences playing travel sports and quickly grew into a fierce and fearless competitor; a hardened mindset shaped by the unpredictable hardships brought by Blair’s Oakland neighborhood.

“Growing up in Oakland is tough. It shaped me to be the athlete that I am as far as having the mentality that I have… it prepares you for a lot” 

His collegiate career began in his hometown at Laney College. An institution that some binge watchers will recognize, Laney was the spotlighted school in season five of the Emmy Nominated Netflix docuseries, Last Chance U.

Filmed in 2018 after Blair Jr. ‘s sophomore year, Netflix’s cameras intimately capture the distressing challenges that life presents Oakland’s teens and twenty year olds. Most players face the challenge of having to financially uplift their families through their performances on a few fall nights.

“It was good for the school to get the exposure, for the city of Oakland to get the exposure, because I don’t think people know what goes on in [junior college] life in California” said Blair Jr.

The wideout’s challenges included the archetypal student-athlete balancing act of allocating time to academics and athletics. What made Devond’s life different was the task of raising his son, who was two years old when Blair Jr. was going into his freshman season.

Laney went 9-2 both years Devond was an Eagle. The wideout was situated in a rush-reliant offense that featured a duo of running backs who each ran for over 1000 yards in the 2017 season. Both rushers would go on to play FBS football (Marcel Dancy, University of California Berkeley and Ahmari Davis, University of New Mexico). Even with a potent ground attack, Blair Jr. still made a name for himself. His sophomore year he led Laney wide receivers in yards, receptions, and touchdowns.

His most memorable moment came on a September evening against California football’s top ranked junior college: The City College of San Francisco. After tying the knot with the mother of his children a few hours prior, the newlywed laced up his cleats and won his team the game with a late score.

Devond out jumped his defender and wrestled in a touchdown to put the Eagles up by five with his family cheering him on from the stands.

As a result of his work on the field and in the classroom, Blair Jr. earned a full scholarship to Missouri Southern State University. This was a chance for him to continue chasing his dream of playing professional football, but it also forced the father of two to spend time away from his children.

“The biggest thing I’ve had to do so far is [be] away from my kids…Knowing that I have to raise them to be better than I am and better than I was, that definitely pushes me” said Blair Jr.

A year later in 2020, tragedy shook Devond’s family– he lost his lifelong role model.

“I had to deal with my brother passing. That’s been hard to deal with, he was like a father to me” said Blair Jr.

Still mourning the loss of his greatest mentor, Devond did his best to focus his energy on his 2021 senior year at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. He played all eleven regular season games and earned his college degree while holding one of the highest grade point averages on his team.

Blair Jr. would attribute his athletic and academic perseverance to his East Bay Area upbringing.

“I’m always competing, whether it’s on the field or off the field. I feel like growing up in Oakland definitely shaped my competitiveness”

His next opportunity to compete came in Indiana at the National Scouting Combine, held February 28 through March 1st of 2022.

“I got to meet a lot of great, great athletes that I’m still in touch with today… It was good to get my testing numbers too”

As soon as the combine ended, the Northwestern Oklahoma State graduate headed to Kansas to play for Topeka’s Champions Indoor Football League team (CIF). The Topeka Tropics were one of four teams to join the Great Plains based CIF for the 2022 season. The league included eight teams spread throughout six states.

A field 50 yards down, 28 yards across, with eight men per side and padded walls. These foreign changes did not affect the receiver so familiar with the game.

“It’s a smaller field, so the angles are different, the play speed is different. As long as you’re a good athlete, you should be able to adjust” Devond said.

Athleticism is something the wideout has never struggled with. Despite his team posting a losing record, he racked up the league’s most all purpose yards and finished in the top ten in receiving touchdowns and receiving yards per game.

Still striving for an opportunity in the National Football League, the 28 year old has one immediate goal.

“Just keep trying to get my name out there in the football world. I know somebody can use my skill set on a football team” 

While pushing to achieve his professional goals, Devond is putting his best foot forward to be the best dad he can be. With his Oakland upbringing and the life experience he’s accumulated through football, Devond aims to instill two words into his children:

“Discipline and consistency”

And while the Californian would say assuredly that he still has a lot left in the tank as an athlete, he’s grateful to be able to look behind him and see the fruit of thousands of hours of labor.

“This game has done a lot for me and I hope to at least get what I want out of it” said Blair Jr.

Devond’s full highlights are available here: Devond Blair Jr. Highlights

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