Meet the New Steeler: DT Devaunte Sigler
Let’s get this out of the way first. Devaunte Sigler was a sophomore at Auburn when he was dismissed from the team for an unspecified violation of team rules. What he was actually dismissed for has apparently never surfaced. He wasn’t arrested—one of Auburn’s best players was dismissed a few months later after a marijuana arrest, but there was nothing on Sigler’s record other than a pending civil case over non-payment of his rent.
There was some speculation at the time that this was a chance for the new head coach to make a statement by dismissing a marginal player. There was also speculation that Sigler preferred the previous coaching staff and didn’t get along with the new coach. However, he later admitted that the downhill path, whatever it was, began before the new coach took over.
In the end it doesn’t matter—what matters is how Sigler handled it. I think it is fair to say he didn’t handle it very well at first. He put out an ambiguous and somewhat surly facebook post, to the effect of “don’t ask because it isn’t your business.” But as the reality of his situation hit, he found himself viewing it another way.
Because Sigler wasn’t just responsible for himself. He had a two year old daughter to support. He went back home to live with his mom and his daughter, and began to realize just what he’d given up. He was dismissed in March of 2013, but Auburn didn’t give a release to allow him to play for another school. He had to find a job, and the only job he knew was football.
So his uncle helped him to get what job he could, and that was working as a brick mason. If any of you have every done any masonry work you know it’s hard physical labor combined with tedium—not a great combination. As he told AL.com:
“It humbled me. It made me a better person and football player. Those things happen to guys. They need that step down to better their career and better their lifestyle.”
A former teammate, Chris Landrum, had left Auburn for Jacksonville State, and when he found Sigler was looking for somewhere else to play he talked to his coaches. The school was more than happy to take him on, and helped him through the myriad of things he had to do, including take the classes necessary to be academically eligible to play:
Leaving Auburn meant his classes that semester were withdrawn. He was forced to pay his own way to Jacksonville State and he estimated passing 37 hours worth of classes in the spring and summer of 2014.
He was finally eligible to practice and compete [in the fall of 2014.]
Another problem was the difficulty of training, but somehow that didn’t seem to matter:
He didn’t play or even train for a year, but earned Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year and FCS All-America honors [at the end of the 2014 season.] Sigler recorded 36 tackles, nine for loss with 3.5 sacks, an interception, two pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick despite facing numerous double teams.
“To me, it seemed like he had gotten faster and gotten better to me,” Landrum said. “He was dealing with a lot of injuries at Auburn. When he’s healthy and not having injuries, he was flying around the football field and it was good to see.”
His 2015 season was something of a disappointment, as he dealt with a number of injuries and missed a good portion of the season. Nonetheless he still made 32 tackles, 2.5 for loss, two sacks and four pass breakups in ten games. It seems as if he discovered, via his poor choices at Auburn, that he loves football, and through having to play catch-up he discovered the value of academics. As you can see by the photo of the graduating Jacksonville State University football players* which heads the article, he got his degree, in public policy. [Sigler is standing on head coach John Grass’ right.] He said he might even head for graduate school eventually.
He was projected as a lower round pick or UDFA, and the Steelers got him as a free agent. He may well not make it onto the roster, as the cruel reality is, somehow or other the Steelers will have to get from 90 men to 53 on the roster by early September. But I’m betting he’s going to give it everything he’s got in the meantime, because he’s learned not to take things for granted:
Sigler’s story could have continued off the wrong path, but he said the opportunity at Jacksonville State saved his life. Now, he’s eager to share his wisdom from the mistakes he made.
“Any student-athlete I can talk to that would think about leaving football, I would tell them, ‘Don’t do it,'” Sigler said. “God gave you the talent for a reason and a hard labor job is not what you want to do.”
* A heartfelt thank you from me to the Anniston Star for caring. It’s amazing how difficult it is to get any information about the “student” part of “student athletes…”