The road to the NFL

Former 49er reveals top advice for aspiring high school football players
Photo on the left is courtesy of Bill Ring and photo on the right is courtesy of Devin Hyde.
Photo on the left is courtesy of Bill Ring and photo on the right is courtesy of Devin Hyde.

The National Football League (NFL): the ultimate goal for every high school football player who wants to have a professional career. 

Generally, players participate in high school teams to get noticed by colleges scouting for players. Once a player signs with a college, it’s hard work until they graduate. After college, the final and biggest hurdle presents itself: getting drafted onto an NFL team. Few make it past each stage but they give it their all for the possibility of a handshake with the commissioner on draft night.

Out of all the high school football players there is a 2.9% chance to play for Division 1 (D1), the highest level, 1.9% for Division 2 (D2) and 2.5% for Division 3 (D3) which are part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), according to the official site for the NCAA.

Devin Hyde, a junior at Menlo-Atherton High School (M-A), is both an outside linebacker and defensive end, also known as an edge, for the school’s football team. He stands tall at 6 feet 5 inches and 230 pounds and is one of the million high school players starting their journey to becoming one of the fewer than 300 players that reach the NFL.

Just after his sophomore year, he gained the attention of three D1 football colleges and received offers to play for their schools. The University of Washington, Cal Berkeley, and University of Nevada have all sent him offers to play for their teams. He already has the second highest number of total sacks for a junior in the Central Coast Section.

Hyde’s career in football started in elementary school. Later, he found himself with Pop Warner Little Scholars, a non-profit organization with programs across the United States for youth football, cheerleading, and dance. The local team he played for was called the Menlo-Atherton Vikings.

“I heard about Pop Warner, which was kind of this youth league where you could play tackle football, and so I tried that out and I really, really enjoyed it,” Devin Hyde said.

As he continued to enjoy playing football, he quickly climbed the ranks. Through Pop Warner, he was able to grow in their program and move up through their divisions. While Hyde was part of the Mitey-Mite division, their team ended up having great success which furthered Hyde’s enthusiasm for the sport.

“We had a couple of good players that year and we ended up going to Orlando because if you were one of the best teams, you got flown out to Orlando, Florida. We ended up beating everyone that year, too. So that was one of my favorite things,” Devin Hyde said.

The experience on the Pop Warner team, allowed Hyde to find his way to football in high school. His coach from Pop Warner’s M-A Vikings, Harold Atkins, had been a great influence on him since he was young.

“Coach Harold from the Vikings is a great guy. Devin looks up to him. He instills school first before football and to do things the right way,” Greg Hyde, Devin’s father, said.

When Hyde got into high school, Atkins put in a good word for him with the M-A Varsity coach, Chris Saunders.

“Watching him develop that callus to where he was willing to outwork everyone, out hustle everyone. I recommended he get moved up to Varsity in the middle of our freshman season and they moved him up. I just thought that he was ready to go to that level,” Atkins said.

Saunders was impressed with Hyde and agreed to move him up once he saw what Atkins had seen in Hyde.

“Devin is one of the few and only freshmen I’ve ever called up to a Varsity team. Devin embodies all those characteristics from the team player, having a great attitude and giving tremendous effort,” Saunders said.

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Devin has the work ethic [and] has a very strong skill set. I know it’s a goal of his to play football at the highest level. I think he’s got a really good combination of things that could potentially make that happen.

— Chris Saunders

Although it is hard to predict a person’s future, Hyde’s M-A coach agrees he has serious potential to make it to the professional level.

“Devin has some of what we call ‘the intangibles’ of guys that get to play and compete at that level. What I mean by that, is obviously his size and his combination of size, speed, and strength. He’s very on track for someone his age to potentially pursue football. You know, it’s really hard to make a projection in some ways because a lot changes in a very impactful time, but I think Devin has the work ethic and has a very strong skill set,” Saunders said.

He is also quite a versatile player as his role on the team extends to both offense and defense.

“This is not uncommon in high school, especially for players like Devin. He is very effective and capable of doing both and is a big reason for the success we have on offense and defense,” Saunders said.

Hyde also works with an agility and movement coach outside of school, Harvey Shields.

Some days he wakes up early to meet with Shields before school. The commitment pays off when he attends football camps later in the summer.

“I didn’t know how big an influence this was gonna be on Devin until I went to the CAL football camp last summer with Devin and I watched him do some of the drills. There was an obvious physical difference in the way he moved and the way he did the drills. That was different than earlier in the summer when I had taken him to some other camps. So he’s learned a lot from Harvey,” Greg Hyde said.

Devin Hyde, 52, tackles Sacred Heart Prep’s quarterback as he closes his eyes anticipating being tackled to the ground before throwing an incomplete pass. (Steve Tremulis)

Having support from his coaches both in and outside of school, Hyde has been able to continuously develop his skills and become better every season. 

“He has, for more than a year, gotten up at 6:30 AM four days a week to work with a speed and agility coach. This Fall, his typical day has him up at 6:30am, on the field from 7am to 7:45am, home to eat and get ready for school, school until 3pm, then practice until 7pm or 7:30; home again to eat and study and in bed by 11pm, if he is lucky,” said Devin Hyde’s mother, Stephanie Fohn. 

During Hyde’s games, Fohn can be found taking pictures from the sidelines. She has seen first-hand the impact football has had on his character.

“A strength he has that helps him a lot in football is he is very even-tempered and does not get emotional when he plays. Many players get angry at the refs or the other team, or they get down when we are behind in a game. Devin does not – he just focuses on one play at a time and gives his best effort. He also plays with integrity – he does not ever do anything illegal out there on the field. Finally, I believe him to be very humble – he focuses on football because he loves it, and he is always striving to be better at the game. He is happy when he does well, but he does not brag about his accomplishments,” Fohn said.

Touchdowns and teamwork

Hyde has maintained a similar work ethic and opportunity for leadership with another passion of his; rugby. Rugby is Hyde’s choice for football’s off-season. He started out in rugby after encouragement into the sport from his father.

“After football season, I said sophomore year, ‘Why don’t you play rugby because you’ll get faster, you’ll get endurance and it’ll be very helpful for your football.’ So, he tried it and he liked it,” Greg Hyde said.

Greg Hyde played rugby in graduate school at Arizona University and befriended Salty Thompson, current director at Eagle Impact Rugby Academy. Thompson is a prominent figure in the world of rugby creating opportunities for more American teenagers to participate in the sport and was inducted into the US Rugby Hall of Fame in 2021.

“My dad was telling me, ‘Salty, he’s got this camp he does in the winter. You wanna try?’ And I’m like, ‘Sure.’ Typically that’s not really a very common thing that’ll happen because Salty likes to pick the best rugby players around the country. But him hearing my dad, ‘Hey, my son, he’s 6’4, he’s like 215 pounds. You want him to play for you?’ He’s like, ‘Oh, yeah. I want him to play for my team,’” Devin Hyde said.

After participating in Thompson’s rugby camp, Hyde joined his local rugby team, East Palo Alto’s Razorhawks club team. Rugby has been a great way for Hyde to enhance his skills for football, but also hone his leadership as well.

“We had one practice where neither coach was there. I’m like, ‘Ok, well, we’re gonna have a useless practice. I wanna get something going.’ So I went over to the guy who runs the field, I said, ‘Hey, can I borrow a whistle?’ I’m like, ‘All right guys, we’re gonna have a scrimmage.’ So first it was kind of like guys weren’t really trying that hard, but then, towards the end, guys were getting really into it,” Devin Hyde said.

Hyde describes his leadership style as being someone who wants to focus on the game and what needs to get done. He sees the job at hand and supports his team to reach their shared goals. He’s become the kind of leader that his teammates can turn to for not only technical support but encouragement and advice.

“One teammate came up to me and he’s like, ‘Devin, how do I play with more heart? How do I do what you do? How do I not be nervous?’ It’s not about being nervous. I get nervous all the time before games because it’s not only that I am nervous to go out there and play, but now I’ve also got this future behind me as well where I can go play, but I also need to play hard so that I can prove to these guys that I’m good enough. I think [what’s] mostly about being a leader is just bringing the guys back to that idea, if I just do my job, we’re gonna win this game,” Devin Hyde said.

Devin Hyde talks to the referee for the pregame coin flip alongside teammates, Paula Tuulakitau, 56, and Xander Eschelman, 2.
Photo courtesy of Devin Hyde.

Hyde takes the game of football to an entirely new level that surpasses just winning or losing. It’s about the process and the life skills that these young men learn through the sport.

“Ultimately, we are not trying to accomplish NFL players. We’re trying to accomplish good men, good fathers, good employees, good leaders,” Atkins said.

Atkins has seen Hyde grow throughout the years and develop his leadership skills but he explains that the foundation of his leadership stems from his high emotional quotient (EQ).

“His leadership ability is off the charts. I mean he’s a high EQ kid and he can transfer energy between himself and his fellow players or himself and his coaches in a very respectful way and a motivational sense without hurting someone’s feelings or overstepping. He’s mindful of all of that. And he’s been like that for a long time,” Atkins said.

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Devin is a like a modern-day superhero type of guy. He’s a guy that went through the ringer and came out tougher…I am extremely proud of who he’s grown to be.

— Harold Atkins

Even though he’s only in his junior year of high school, he was chosen as team captain of the Varsity football team this year through an election of his peers. Although not completely uncommon for a junior to be captain, it is still a commendable example of how much his peers respect him.

“That in of itself speaks volumes to who he is and how his peers view him…He’s passionate, energetic, cares deeply about everything that we do. Although Devin has a lot of success individually on the field, he cares way more about the collective group. That is a really good quality of any sort of leader,” Saunders said.

Hyde’s former teammate on the M-A team, David Tangilanu, graduated high school last year and committed to Brigham Young University (BYU), an NCAA D1 school. For M-A, he played as a defensive end and offensive tackle. Similar to Hyde, he was also extremely versatile being able to play both defensive and offensive. Tangilanu speaks about what it was like to be on the team with Devin and how he took the initiative at every opportunity.

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The thing about Devin is that he always helps everybody out whether you’re the star player of the team or whether you’re barely leading the game. He helps out everyone with the calls, drills, technique, etc. He’s just a big helping hand and will not leave you hanging.

— David Tangilanu

Tangilanu and Hyde were a great team on the field often using teamwork to their advantage during games.

“Devin and I were called the ‘Bruise Brothers’ last year. We both were the most physical on the team and every time we played a team it’ll be hard for them to run the ball because me and Devin were on both sides,” Tangilanu said.

Devin Hyde and David Tangilanu pose for a picture together after M-A’s final game of the season. (Alessandra Tremulis)

Two things that stood out to Tangilanu the most about Devin were both his physicality and personality.

“First of all, his size at his age is just out of this world. I mean, the dude is the same height as me. His physicality is another thing that stood out to me and his fearless personality,” Tangilanu said.

As Tangilanu has recently started out his own journey in football, making it to an NCAA team, he has great insight into the next steps that Hyde will soon take. 

Bill Ring

As Hyde starts the countdown to the day he can get drafted, someone who has already been through the process can empathize with his experience and even provide advice.

Bill Ring, a Carlmont High School alumni, and former 49ers running back was inducted into the California Community College Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009. He played for the College of San Mateo from 1975-1976 before transferring to BYU. He later played for the San Francisco 49ers from 1981-1986.

Ring has two superbowl rings and was awarded the Len Eshmont Award by the 49ers in 1983, which is the 49ers most prestigious annual honor.

He shares with Hyde and every athlete, his three most valuable pieces of advice.

The first is to have multiple game plans. Ring faced many hurdles before making it to an NFL team. In high school, he had been given an offer from the University of Notre Dame but was later dropped after the head coach left.

“I hadn’t really responded to other colleges because that’s where I wanted to go. So, you know, I kind of put all my eggs in one basket there,” Ring said.

Even though this opportunity had fallen through, he found himself looking at other Division I football colleges he could attend. He found the College of San Mateo which is where he decided to attend. Ring knew the college choice was an impactful determinant in a post-college NFL career.

“I really wanted to play D1 football and so College of San Mateo was the option at the time, which was a great option for me and we had great coaches. A guy named Bill Bickley and the rest of the coaching staff at the College of San Mateo were terrific. I had a year and a half at College of San Mateo because right after the second year I was recruited by Brigham Young University,” Ring said.

Right out of college, he was signed with the Oakland Raiders, now Las Vegas Raiders, but the partnership didn’t last long.

He decided it was worth it to keep trying and soon signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers who won the Super Bowl earlier that year. It didn’t take long for him to catch the attention of the 49ers for a second time in his career, and they signed him.

“You’re always going to have some trials and tribulations along the way and getting to your goal is not always going to be easy, you’re gonna have some obstacles in your way. But just know that there will be obstacles, but you got to just step up and conquer them one at a time,” Ring said.

Ring’s perseverance through rejection was necessary to reach an even greater opportunity. He was able to be a part of the 49ers during a period considered one of the greatest in all of their history, sometimes dubbed the “49ers dynasty” or the “golden age.” 

Photo courtesy of Bill Ring.

 Ring learned from their former coach to always set goals. This is the second lesson he shares: Set your goals, visualize, and go after them.

“From day one, our goal was to win the NFL championship and go to the Super Bowl. I think that’s true of anything you do in life: put those goals out there, you have to put them in front of you and go after them, but you have to know that it’s going to take effort, you’ve got to make good decisions along the way and that’s critical, especially in high school because that’s the next level to get you to college and to get an education,” Ring said.

 Ring also urges the next generation of high school athletes to create for themselves.

“One thing that I would just say is make sure you have a plan. Everyone needs their own personalized plan and I don’t think high school kids give it enough thought. The more, the better to really figure out where they want to go to college, what it’s going to take, what kind of GPA they’re going to have to take, what SATs, et cetera. All that and start as early as possible,” Ring said.

 Ring’s third piece of advice: academics are important. He credits his parents for setting him up with a mental attitude that allows him to want to do what he can to do well in school and to push himself academically.

“My parents did a great job of making sure I knew how to be a good person and they’ve especially motivated me in school work to kind of get my work done responsibly,” Hyde said.

 He emphasizes the value of education aside from focusing solely on the sports. He also discusses the difficult balancing act with sports, school and a social life while in high school. 

Fohn reflects on how Hyde has balanced two sports in addition to academics and having a social life.

“ I think it was a coach at one of the camps said, and I may be paraphrasing a bit, ‘There are three things all of you have to juggle – football, academics, and having a social life. You can only do two of the three – it’s up to you to choose what’s most important.’ It was his way of saying that if you want to be successful in football, you have to be willing to give something up. For now, I believe Devin has chosen football and academics as his top priorities,” Fohn said.

Building the roots of success

Fohn sees the hard work her son puts into football and his academics. Even when Hyde was with Pop Warner’s M-A Vikings, they emphasized the importance of academics from a young age.

Devin Hyde poses next to his parents, Stephanie Fohn and Greg Hyde for a picture after Menlo-Atherton’s last game of the season. (Alessandra Tremulis)

Hyde has a great familial support system behind him for every step of the way. From Pop Warner to now in high school, Greg Hyde has done everything he can to be involved in his son’s ambitions.

“During Pop Warner, I would go and set the field. I managed the equipment and the jerseys and did whatever I could. I filmed all the games making sure Devin had film of his games.  I’m on the football board for the football foundation. I’m now the guy for cast padding when people have broken bones to come and get custom casts,” Greg Hyde said.

Fohn also describes her own involvement alongside Greg Hyde in their son’s athletic pursuits.

“My husband and I have driven him to practice and attended every game since he started at seven years old. We both have been very active parents, volunteering and supporting him in all his activities,” Fohn said.Both Hyde’s parents are hopeful for the future and look forward to however long his football career lasts.

“Football at the high school level will end and we hope he gets to go beyond that. But then we’ll see where that goes,” Greg Hyde said. 

His mother is just as happy to see his passions continue for as long as they last.

“Right now, he would like to play football as far as he can. We will see what the future will hold,” Fohn said.

Having excelled in football thus far and the achievements he’s already scored, his underlying goal is simply, to make his grandpa proud.

About the Contributor
Alessandra Tremulis, Scot Scoop Podcast Editor
Alessandra Tremulis is a current student at Carlmont High School, class of 2025. Tremulis is interested in STEM and education. Her interest in journalism comes from wanting a deeper understanding of important topics and events. She is also a member of Carlmont's Varsity Dance Team which has been the best way to sustain her long-time passion for dance.

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