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James Develin’s rise from the Bengals’ practice squad to the Super Bowl

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James Develin got his first shot in the NFL as a member of the Bengals’ practice squad, and now he is playing in his third Super Bowl.

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

James Develin has had quite the career.

He started from very humble beginnings to now being apart of the PatriotsSuper Bowl team two years in a row. Develin was even selected to the Pro Bowl this season, though he couldn’t make it because of the Super Bowl. It is strange to think that one of the NFL’s best fullbacks started his career at the University of Brown as a defensive end.

Develin tallied up 15 sacks in four years at Brown, so it was no surprise that he wasn’t exactly in high demand. This led to his professional career starting off in the Arena Football League playing for the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz (no really that is how they spell it). He only ended up playing one game for the team.

He then moved onto the UFL, which for those who don’t remember functioned as a kind of AA league for players who couldn’t make it on NFL Rosters. He joined the Florida Tuskers where he first met up with Jay Gruden who was the head coach. This is also where he converted from defensive end to full back.

In the middle of the 2010 season, Develin finally made it to the NFL. He was signed to the Bengal’s practice squad. The following offseason the Bengals also hired Gruden to be their offensive coordinator and reunited the two. That reunion only lasted one season though, and Develin never made it off of the practice squad. He was released during the first cuts of the 2012 season.

This is where Develin’s career took a real turn. In true Patriot fashion, New England quickly pounced on him. They added him to the practice squad, but he joined the active roster in November. He saw most of his action on special teams that season. He did well enough that the Patriots re-signed him for the 2013 season. Soon there after he was named their starting fullback.

He would play every game for the Patriots the next two seasons. He scored two touchdowns during those seasons, including one in the AFC Championship game that sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl against the Seahawks. New England ultimately won that Super Bowl, and Develin even had a six yard reception in the game.

However, 2015 was a different story for Develin. He tore his ACL in a preseason game. He was forced to spend the season on Injured Reserve. He did end up re-signing with the team for a one-year deal that would ultimately end up with the Patriots winning another Super Bowl. This time it was an overtime win against the Falcons.

This past offseason Develin and the Patriots agreed to a two-year deal, and he has been outstanding for the team yet again. Fullbacks have seem to go by the wayside in the modern NFL, but the Patriots committed to keeping their talented back, and it has payed off for them as they return to the Super Bowl on Sunday.

It is quite the story to go from AFL to possibly a three time Super Bowl champion. The only way the story could’ve been any better was if the Bengals had held on to him, and gone to those Super Bowls themselves.