Standard of Excellence – Meet the Captains
Before the preseason camp kickoff, Princeton Football already knew who would be leading the 121-player team into the season this year. Voted in by their fellow teammates in the spring, seniors Seth DeValve and Matt Arends earned the title of Captain. While both had an early passion for the sport in elementary school, their paths through high school and journey through Princeton have taken starkly different paths.
DeValve grew up in Manchester, Conn., a small city of about 58,000, two towns east of Hartford, as the youngest of four brothers. He started playing football at an early age and fell in love with the game instantly.
Football wasn’t the only sport DeValve had developed a passion for, though. He was a three sport athlete through his second year of high school, rotating between football in the fall, basketball in the winter and track and field in the spring.
DeValve knew he was interested in pursuing a spot in college, and during his sophomore year, he had made the decision to commit to football. DeValve began to use the winter for training rather than playing basketball.
“I loved all those sports,” DeValve said. “Dropping basketball was a difficult decision for me. I had coaches and my parents, who I trusted in my life that advised me. I wanted to use the winter time to lift instead of playing basketball and use the spring time with track as a means of training for football by getting faster, running better, and running more efficiently.”
By the end of his time as the quarterback of Manchester High School, DeValve had thrown for 4,650 career passing yards and 37 touchdowns and rushed for 2,000 career yards and 24 touchdowns, earning him All-State honors as a senior. He was a two-time All-Conference selection at quarterback and All-Conference honoree as free safety.
The Tigers’ other captain, senior linebacker Matt Arends, had a much different path to arriving at Princeton. Arends always knew he wanted to play sports in college, however, the Fire Lake, Minn. native, thought he would be entering college as a baseball player.
At Prior Lake High School, Arends was turning heads with his athletic performances. As an outfielder and 2nd baseman, he earned three All-Conference honors in baseball and led his team to two conference titles as team captain. However, Arends was also being looked at as a potential football recruit for his abilities as wide receiver and safety. As a first-team All-State honoree and three-time All-Conference honoree, Arends help to lead his team into section championship and state quarterfinal.
“Baseball is year round; you don’t really get a break,” Arends said. “I didn’t think I really wanted to do that. And I think I realized football is so much more exciting. You also get that time off, which is different type of time off than baseball, where you’re always playing. There’s a reward of having worked all year for football, then playing 10 games. I think that influenced me a lot.”
For Arends, his decision to apply for Princeton was an easy one. His parents had suggested applying to higher education schools, who received his highlight tapes as a junior. Then, at the University of Michigan football camp, Arends met Princeton Special Teams Coordinator and Tight Ends Coach Andy Aurich.
After taking an unofficial visit in August, Arends fell in love with Princeton. He applied early action and committed in October.
“When I was going through the process, I was talking to a couple of other schools, but I never got the feeling that they wanted me,” Arends said. “I knew coming in, even though Princeton didn’t have the best record, it was a place I felt most welcomed, and some place where I could have the most impact. The coaches also made me feel like they wanted me to be here. I thought the campus was a lot better, and I liked how close the students where.”
DeValve’s college decision was tougher as he was stuck between committing to University of Connecticut and Princeton.
“I never envisioned myself as an Ivy League candidate or athlete. That was never my goal. I really wanted to go to UCONN, and I almost made the decision to go play football there,” DeValve said. “But at the end of the day, I picked the school that wanted me the most. It’s good to be wanted as opposed to going to a school that kind of wants you because it’ll be an uphill battle your whole career. It’s tough to say no when the #1 school in the country wants you, so, regardless of the fact there were no playoffs, regardless of the fact there were no scholarships, I made the decision to come here, and I’m very glad I did. It’s been harder, both athletically and academically, but I’ve also become a person in the process of that that I probably could not have imagined becoming.”
Along with the change of scenery, DeValve would make another big leap when arriving for his freshman preseason training camp. Having played quarterback for nearly ten years, DeValve was now entering camp as a wide receiver. Staying on the same side of the ball made it conceptually easier, but DeValve found the physical transformation to be the most difficult.
“It’s very demanding on the body being a wide receiver, but schematically I was able to pick it up relatively quickly, learning the technique and getting in shape,” DeValve said. “I like it more than quarterback because you don’t think quite as much. Wide receiver is mental as well, but not as much so. It’s more physical. As a wide receiver, if I’m stronger than you, if I’m faster than you, if I’m in better shape than you, there’s not much you can do to stop me, if that’s the case. I can use more of my athleticism and more of my conditioning to my advantage.”
In addition to switching positions, DeValve also had the added challenge of FSI his freshman preseason camp.
“The hardest, explicit part, was my freshman preseason camp. That was a very trying time for me, and that’s really where I had to make the decision: am I going to put the work in this place requires academically and athletically? To do it exceptionally well or just get by?” DeValve said. “I think that’s the decision everyone is faced with here. I think most people, quite honestly, make the decision to just get by. Then there’s a group of people that decide to do it exceptionally well. I don’t know what that distinction takes, but I see it with everybody that comes through here. I’m just glad something inside of me caused me to do it really well.”
Both captains have also made an impact off the field. Arends’ is studying at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, from which he will earn his degree this upcoming spring. During his freshman summer, Arends participated in a French immersion program in Quebec, Canada. Since then, he has been an intern at the State Department Embassy in Paris and a policy intern for a non-profit advocacy group for the International Affairs department.
After graduation, Arends hopes to apply for fellowships, possibly teaching English abroad for a year or working for a non-governmental organization to gain field experience before applying for graduate school or starting a career in Foreign Service.
Limited in the preseason due to injury, Arends remains focused on the upcoming season.
“Individually, I think it’s going to be perfecting the mistakes I had last year through extended film work and practice time,” Arends said. “I would say overall, I want to be much more involved and have a bigger impact on disrupting passes and disrupting the quarterback. I’m looking to have more sacks this year and more interceptions.”
DeValve is also heavily involved with Princeton Faith and Action, an on-campus Christian fellowship. Both his sophomore and freshman year, he was the worship band leader. While he was unable to continue that role because of his winter graduation, he remains a regular at group meetings and bible studies. DeValve also belongs to Cannon eating club.
Outside of his extracurricular activities, DeValve has also found a place in mechanical and aerospace engineering.
“One of the reasons I came to Princeton was because I knew it was possible to [major in mechanical and aerospace engineering]. Not that it was easy, but that it was possible,” DeValve said. “At other places, they don’t accommodate athletic schedules. You may have a lab or a class during practice, at which point you have to choose, and the choice usually comes down to switching your major, but I knew I wanted to play football and major in mechanical engineering.”
Despite majoring as an engineer, DeValve is still undecided as to what his path will be after graduation. He has the hopes of pursuing football, looking to perform well enough in the next twelve weeks to earn a pro day and draft spot. He is also interested in becoming a coach at the high school level.
“I’ve thought about coaching high school because I’d like to get involved with kid’s lives a little bit before college,” DeValve said. “In college, your make up is kind of what it is. I felt like high school kids are a little more impressionable. I don’t want to just coach x’s and o’s – I want to have some sort of father type role in people’s lies, which I think high school football is the perfect setting for. I love teaching, and I’ve thought seriously about being a high school math teacher and football coach. That’d be the dream.”