NC State quarterback Devin Leary trusted the process
NC State football redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Leary knows that there was some clamoring on social media for him to get a chance to lead the Wolfpack offense, but it was not something he claimed to follow.
"I kind of just shy away from that," Leary noted.
Instead, what Leary spent most of the first half of the Wolfpack season doing is what he called “trusting the process.” That has now led to Leary getting his first career start for NC State Saturday.
That Leary has reached this point is not a surprise. He was a decorated signing for the Wolfpack in the 2018 class. He finished his career at Timber Creek High in Sicklerville, N.J. as the state’s all-time leader in passing yards (9,672) and touchdown tosses (117). He was a two-time New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year and played in the Polynesian All-American Bowl.
During the summer before his senior year, Leary participated in both the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and the Nike Elite 11, leading to him being rated a consensus four-star by the various recruiting services. Rivals.com ranked Leary as the No. 240 player overall and the No. 9 pro-style quarterback in the country that year.
How Leary got to No. 1 on the depth chart was a bit more unusual. He began the season third-string after a three-way battle for the starting job — trailing redshirt sophomores Matthew McKay and Bailey Hockman.
McKay received the first five starts of the season, then Hockman had two. Neither grabbed hold of the position. Now Leary, who threw three touchdown passes in relief of Hockman at Boston College, has his turn.
“I took it as trusting the process,” Leary said. “Everyday is competition, and competition makes everyone better in my opinion. Just being able to trust the process, trust the coaches and work my way up … is really a privilege to me.”
Leary had an understanding at the end of preseason camp of what he needed to improve upon to get this opportunity.
“Film study, first and foremost,” Leary noted. “Identifying defenses and really just mastering our system. Growing pains are going to happen, and I completely understood that, so I think over time just being able to get everything down was big for me.”
He could not tell when any one light-bulb moment occurred and everything began to click for him, but he also understands just because he is a starter does not mean he has everything figured out either.
For instance, he pointed out that despite his success against Boston College, there was, in his words, “room for a lot of improvement.” He also can fall back on the approach that he took while he was watching from the sidelines as first McKay and then Hockman received their opportunities.
“For me personally, it was just to do my job every single day,” Leary recalled. “I knew I was going to go out there and make mistakes. Everyone does. But just being able to chop at it every single day was what helped me to really get where I’m at right now.”
Leary was quick to say that the thought of leaving NC State when he was third on the depth chart never entered his mind. He also was not concerned with being in that position.
“I was just focused on myself being able to work harder for this team, no matter where they put me on the depth chart,” Leary said. “Just being able to make myself better every single day and just work hard.”
Leary, McKay and Hockman find themselves in an unusual situation: a quarterback room where three healthy signal-callers have all started in the same season.
“Me personally, I think the other two guys did a really good job,” Leary noted. “This is just my turn. Next guy up, like we always said.”
Next up is NC State’s first top-25 opponent of the year. Wake Forest is ranked No. 22 (coaches) and No. 23 (The Associated Press) in the various national polls after a 6-1 start, and like the Wolfpack, it is coming off a bye. Leary has noticed on film that the Deacons have an athletic defense that will throw unique coverage schemes at NC State that they have not seen yet.
Leary will try to apply a valuable lesson that he learned from his first extensive experience at BC.
“Taking it one snap at a time,” Leary explained. “Being able to have a plan and execute my plan before I catch the ball every single snap.”
In other words, trust his process, just like he did on his way to becoming NC State's starting quarterback.