Australia’s Bailey Devine-Scott tackled, not kicked in Tropical Bowl All-Star Game

Bailey Devine-Scott (orange helmet) coming off the line during warm-ups at the SPIRAL Tropical Bowl Photo: Richard Bailey/Locked In Magazine

Arrived at Tropical SPIRAL Bowl, it only took the hotel lobby before Bailey Devine-Scott was asked the question. Checking in with his football gear in tow, he only had to open his mouth for someone to guess his position.

“Oh, so you must be a gambler?”

For many, his Australian emphasis immediately places him as a specialist in the great tradition of Australian rules converts. It’s an easy guess to make, but those who judge the book by its language coverage are seriously mistaken.

Not much for kicking footballs, Devine-Scott is a highly decorated safety, one of many Australians in college football plying their trade in unskilled positions.

“It’s great to see. A lot of the players I played with in Australia, there are a few who came through the university ranks and others who are trying to move here,” he said with a smile. “It’s really good to see a lot of young guys now trying to get through and actually play the sport, not just come in and hit a few balls.”

While misidentified as a punter at check-in, Devine-Scott had the chance last week to prove he could compete as a defensive back at the highest level. First launched in 2016, the tropical bowl is an annual college football all-star game for draft-eligible prospects. Held in Orlando Florida in Camping World Stadium – the house of the famous citrus bowl – more than 350 former participants have made their way to the NFL.

Bailey Devine-Scott (orange helmet) Photo: East Preps SPIRAL Tropical Bowl

It is company that Aussie never imagined that he would be part of it. Despite his stellar collegiate career, he played at the Division 3 level for tiny University of Western New England. He was decidedly under the radar, but that’s where All22 came in.

The new global scouting network has partnered with the tropical bowl this season to reserve two spots for international athletes in the collegiate ranks. Already flagged by their team of U.S. regional scouts as a born-in-the-world athlete, Devine-Scott quickly established himself as one of the top candidates for selection. When he received the message back home in Australia for the holidays, he almost couldn’t believe it.

“Never, ever thought I’d play this game,” Devine-Scott smiles. “Honestly, it was something I never thought I would experience and I’m so glad I had the opportunity.”

Although the opportunity seemed like a dream, it wasn’t just a fluke. Devine-Scott earned his luck with his game on the pitch, excelling at every step of his remarkable footballing journey.

Growing up as a rugby league player Wattle Grove, he started the sport at age 15 after falling in love with the NFL on TV and through Madden. He joined the local West Sydney Pirates for fun, but his aspirations quickly grew as he enjoyed success at state and national team level. This movie landed him a handful of college opportunities in the United States, where he eventually chose western New England because of a college scholarship in mechanical engineering.

Devine-Scott admits he had never even heard of the school until he arrived on campus for a visit, but it was a decision he never regretted. In three seasons on the court, he racked up 133 total tackles, 16 pass breakups and two interceptions while twice being named to the all-conference first team. In 2021, Devine-Scott received the conference award Senior Perseverance and Achievement Award for his outstanding career.

As this led him to Orlando, it was far from the most impressive resume out there. Surrounded by Division 1 stars, Devine-Scott actually had to enroll in West New England while filling out a form. It was the first time a player from this school reached the stage of the Tropical Bowl, but he did not back down from the school’s great talents.

“I had my Western New England varsity bag. People were coming in with bags from Michigan State, jerseys from Michigan and helmets from Washington, things I never thought I’d ever see. I was thrilled to see the talent,” Devine-Scott said. “I was excited to play against these guys and see how I compared. I loved how fast the game was. The game went so fast and everyone was on a certain level, they knew what they were doing and they really loved their job.

The safety didn’t miss an opportunity to get advice from top coaches, focusing on keeping his feet patient despite the urge to speed up against elite receivers. While the practice week was full of challenges, Devine-Scott quickly discovered that he didn’t belong.

“My first one-on-one, this Ole Miss receiver broke me on a takedown and I was like ‘wow, they’re coming off their breaks pretty quick. But I had good catch-up speed. I joined it,” he recalled. “Then there was a moment when they threw themselves at my side and I came down and read it pretty quickly. I went down and adapted to the running back pretty well. I said to myself, ‘I’m just playing football here’ and it became natural again.”

On game day, Devine-Scott was able to enter the defensive and special teams rotation, finishing with a tackle. His only wish was that he could have been on the pitch even more. Like most college stars, he’s not used to waiting on the sidelines.

While Devine-Scott once feared his football career was over, the tropical bowl the experience cemented his belief that he can play at the next level. More than 90 scouts from across professional football have now seen Devine-Scott in action and he hopes the Canadian Football League World Cup program will be his next step, although he remains open to other opportunities, including in Europe.

The Aussie will do just about anything a professional team asks. Don’t ask him to kick the ball.

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