Cleveland Browns tight end Seth DeValve made headlines August 21 when he knelt in solidarity with his teammates during the National Anthem prior to a preseason game against the New York Giants.
DeValve is believed to be the first white NFL player to kneel during the anthem. He said he did so to join the other Browns players in a “prayer group.”
“We took the opportunity to pray for our country and for the men and women in this country during that time,” he told reporters after the game.
DeValve is entering his sophomore NFL season for the Browns after seeing some time on the field a season ago.
Here’s what you need to know DeValve:
1. The Protest Was Spurred by Violence in Charlottesville, Virginia
Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey led the group of players in prayer and described the meaning of doing it to Cleveland.com after the game.
You always have to, with everything you do, you have to have respect first and foremost and we did it in a way, we were saying a prayer.
If anyone was wondering what was going on in that circle, we were saying a prayer and we were just praying over the country, praying over things that we were going on, we tried to do it as respectfully as possible and we respect everything that happened with people in the military, we respect all of that. We just felt it was the right time to do that, say a prayer, pray over this country.
The group kneeling during the anthem came a little more than two weeks after violence was spurred by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. One woman was killed after a man drove his vehicle into a group of counter protesters, and another 19 people were injured.
Kneeling during the anthem was made popular by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season, who protested an increase in the deaths of black males at the hands of white police officers.
“There are a lot of racial and social injustices that are going on in the world right now so we just decided to take a knee and pray for the people who have been affected and pray for the world in general,” Browns safety Jabrill Peppers said to reporters.
2. DeValve Played Football at Princeton University
DeValve was a standout at Manchester High School in Connecticut and went on to play at Princeton University. He played 36 total games at Princeton — just eight in his last two seasons — and was listed as a wide receiver. He racked up 1,336 yards receiving on 122 receptions to go along with 7 touchdowns. His best season was in 2013 when he was on the receiving end of 49 passes to the tune of 527 yards and 4 touchdowns. He majored in mechanical engineering at the school.
DeValve credited his education at Princeton for leading to his draft stock being high after his collegiate career.
“I’m sure my path at Princeton, being a mechanical engineering major and playing football, had something to do with the Ivy league guys who are in the front office there who had a certain amount of respect for what that takes,” DeValve said to The Hartford Courant.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, DeValve came home to work out with members of the Manchester High School track and football team.
3. He Was Drafted in the 4th Round of the Draft
DeValve, who was listed as 6-foot-2, 244 pounds leading up the the draft, impressed NFL scouts with his pro day on March 30, 2016. He registered a 40-yard dash time of 4.68 seconds and had 22 reps in the 225-pound bench press. His vertical jump was 40 inches and his 20-yard shuttle time clocked in at 4.18 seconds.
With those numbers, he was high on many team’s draft board and was considered one of the top-tier tight ends in the draft. He ended up being drafted by the Browns in the fourth round (No. 138 overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft.
DeValve became the highest-drafted player from Princeton in the modern football era.
After he was drafted, he spoke to The Hartford Courant about what it meant to him and his family.
“I’ve been preparing for this for a long time,” DeValve said to the publication. “It came down to a fifth year at Princeton (2015) because I knew I had a shot. I put together a couple of good seasons and then a good pro day. I expected to get drafted; I wasn’t sure when. I knew I was going somewhere and then hearing my name, it was incredible. I was surrounded by my immediate family, a couple of my close friends, a couple of my high school coaches in Manchester at my parents’ house.
4. DeValve Caught 2 Touchdown Passes During the 2016 Season
DeValve signed a four year, $2.5 million contract with the Browns after being drafted, which included a $383,000 signing bonus.
Listed as the No. 2 tight end on the Browns’ roster, DeValve didn’t see a ton of time on the field. However, he made the most of it when he did. He scored his first NFL touchdown on a Thursday night game against the Ravens on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Cody Kessler.
DeValve found the end zone for his second time in the last week of the season on a 12-yard pass from Robert Griffin III, the former Heisman winner’s first as a Brown.
For the 2016 season, DaValve caught 10 passes for 127 yards and the 2 touchdowns and entered 2017 looking to build on his performance in 2016.
Browns coach Hue Jackson told reporters July 20 that he saw DeValve as being a guy “who is important” to the team and is “emerging.”
5. DeValve Got Married in June
According to wedding website The Knot, DeValve got married to longtime girlfriend Erica Harris on June 17.
Harris, who is black, first met DeValve at Princeton when they took a class together during her freshman year. She noticed him when DeValve got up in front of the class to play guitar as part of a class project, a description on The Knot said.
DeValve first noticed Harris when he led worship at a church on the Princeton campus.
They grew to become good friends through Princeton Faith & Action, the campus ministry in which they both served. It was after one of PFA’s weekly meetings that Seth asked Erica out on their first date. A few months later, on May 10, 2015, Seth asked Erica to be his girlfriend and they have been best friends ever since.
DeValve wrote that he purchased an engagement ring in Philadelphia before the Browns played the Eagles. He held onto it and finally proposed days after the Browns’ Thursday night game against the Ravens, the same one he caught his first-career touchdown in.
DeValve had TV producers stage an interview about how the couple met at the Princeton football stadium.
At that point I told the camera the story of how we met as the photographers snuck onto the field from behind. I told our story up to the present day and then got on one knee and popped the question with the camera rolling. It was a great way to have many memories of such a special day for both of us. Erica was speechless and elated, as was I (as well as being quite relieved that she was actually surprised). We had a big party on campus afterward to celebrate.