For the last two decades, Bald Eagle Area junior and senior high school athletes have turned to one man when they’ve limped away from a practice drill or suffered an injury in a game.
Scott Devore — now in his 21st year as head athletic trainer for BEA — was there to check Bryce Greene for a cut over his right eye after the BEA senior took a hard foul from a Central player in the District 6 Class AA semifinals last week. Devore was back at it this weekend when BEA wrestlers, going through the rigors of the postseason, needed their bloody noses stopped, their sore muscles stretched or their sore fingers taped.
Name it and the 46-year-old Devore’s done it in his 24-year career. His body of work helping mend student athletes will be recognized on March 23 at the annual National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes’ Award banquet where Devore will be named the Athletic Trainer of the Year by the NFF’s central Pennsylvania chapter and presented with an lifetime achivement award by Penn State football coach James Franklin.
“He’s very into working with the kids and very passionate about what he does,” BEA athletic director Doug Dyke said. “He’s been here longer than these kids have been alive. He stays up on things, is involved in organizations. He gets to know the parents and the staff members so he’s just made himself a part of the community.”
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It’s a community that Devore appreciates and continues to serve. He spends time as a youth leader at Bellefonte’s Watermark church. There, Devore has organized four mission trips across the region and is planning a fifth for later this year. He’s also eying a possible mission trip abroad in the near future.
Devore didn’t get to do that kind of traveling as a kid.
He’s not shy about bringing up his blue-collar beginnings when relating himself to the blue-collar Wingate community he’s grown with for most of his professional life. Devore grew up in Eighty Four, Pa. where his father was a steelworker and his mother worked two jobs cleaning houses and working for a small air pollutions company.
When the local steel mills closed, Devore’s father started a landscaping endeavor that Devore began working for when he was just 10.
“He taught me how to work hard and to appreciate things in life,” Devore said. “We never had it easy.”
A standout track and field athlete, Devore earned a partial scholarship to Mercyhurst where injuries slowed him. By then, he was already interested in helping athletes as he took inspiration from his high school trainer.
But Devore struggled with standardized tests and when he told his first college advisor he was thinking of a career in athletic medicine, she told him he’d probably want to reconsider.
“She told me I should think about doing something else,” Devore said. “But as I progressed I did fairly well in the program and I went to graduate school (at Western Michigan) and she gave me the best recommendation I’ve ever had. She said, ‘I told you you’d make it.’ I said, ‘No you didn’t. But thank you.’ Because that drive (came from) being told I wouldn’t make it.”
Not only did Devore excel, he did so under unusual circumstances. He continued to run on Mercyhurst’s track and field and cross country teams. He’d arrive early to practice and stay late to help his teammates with their injuries. All-in-all, Devore’s schooling required him to spend 1,700 hours in the athletic training room in three years.
He continues to log heavy minutes helping athletes.
In addition to his duties at BEA, Devore puts his skills as a licensed athletic trainer to use at Drayer Physical Therapy Institute. He spends mornings inside the Bellefonte branch, usually working a seven-to-noon shift before heading to Wingate where he’ll spend late afternoons and early evenings, usually 2 to 6 p.m., patrolling the Eagle’s practice facilities.
A lot of BEA student-athletes remind Devore of himself and kids he grew up with, he said.
“I fit in really well here,” Devore said. “You have some folks that are struggling. And they’re really down to earth here. It’s easy to really get along with the kids and the families. And they’ve gotten to know me over the years so they trust me.”
Former BEA football player and wrestler Mike Maney is one of the thousands of athletes who Devore has helped over the years. Maney, who’s now the wrestling coach at Bellefonte High, used to get stingers in his neck during football seasons. Devore used massage and a specially made bottle filled with ice that could be used as a massage aid to relieve Maney’s pain.
“It certainly helped,” Maney said. “But no matter what it was, he always seemed like he knew the right things and did the right things. And at the same time, he wasn’t one that would baby you. He was honest and if you wanted to get back, he’d help you get back.”
Maney had a wrestling teammate who injured an ACL early in the season during Maney’s sophomore season. His hurt teammate, Dave Surovec, was a senior and was determined to return for the PIAA championships five months later. Maney said he remembers Devore spending extra time with Surovec, helping him exercise and build strength in the knee so he could indeed return. When he did, Surovec came back even earlier and went into the PIAA tournament unbeaten.
“That’s a lot of credit to Scott and the sacrifice he was willing to put in with him,” Maney said. “It didn’t really matter the hours. Early in the morning he was there all the time. After practice. It didn’t matter to Scott. You were his priority and student athletes always came first.”