He started with Texas A&M, the school that would allow him to remain near home as he tried to start life over as one, and the program that had flooded his living room with seven coaches one night just before signing day. At first the Aggies seemed excited to hear from him, but then came silence, and then a reference to the shock their football program had undergone 10 years earlier when kicker James Glenn died of a heart problem before practice...and then, no thank you, Devard, we're sorry.
Next he contacted Tennessee. Yes, said the Volunteers, come see us on the double. They sat him down, indicated that they had a scholarship open, set him up with a counselor to arrange classes and told him they'd express-mail the forms he'd need to sign. Tennessee, man! Nearly on a par with Florida State! He arranged an apartment in Knoxville, read a story of his reported transfer in The Tennessean, went home and waited for the scholarship papers to arrive.
And waited. And waited. Cousin Frank kept calling the Tennessee football office to learn what was causing the delay. Well...uh...we're sorry, a coach finally told him, but the scholarship we thought we had to offer, we don't have.
The news found Devard at his mother's house. Halfway up the stairs, he dropped and wept. How could it be? All the advantages he'd reaped in 18 years as Devaughn's twin suddenly were turning against him. Guilt by association, that's how it felt, but who—in a land of lawyers licking their chops—could take on the liability of Devaughn Darling's double?
He tried blasphemy next: Miami, the Seminoles' archenemy. Coach Larry Coker's remorse sounded real: Oh, if only Devard had called two weeks earlier, before that last scholarship was bestowed, perhaps he could've been a Hurricane. The clock was ticking. Summer and scholarships were vanishing, the next school year drawing near. Cousin Frank contacted Arizona. Sorry. No interest. A question began to gnaw at Devard: Have I been blacklisted?
He tried Purdue next. Sure, said the Boilermakers, come visit, and his hopes rose again. He flew there and was asked to take virtually all of those tests a third time. More injections, more tubes, more straps, clips, mouthpieces and monitors. More invasion, more waiting. He hung his head and became a piece of meat again, then went home. He felt no connection there.
Southern Cal grew interested. He had barely gotten off the plane, it seemed, when he was asked to submit to the same tests yet again. Couldn't he forward the results of all the ones he'd already taken and re-taken? No. How many times, he wanted to scream, must his body prove its innocence? But he was Devard, not Devaughn, so he clamped his lips and walked away with his suitcase and his unspeakable loneliness.
My God, this is crazy! Devard stared out the window as the airplane descended over a million miles of wheat. Where am I? That's all he could see, an ocean of gold grass swelling and dipping across the hills of eastern Washington.
Washington State was his next hope. Everything was wrong about the place: the distance from Houston and Mummy and friends, the light-years from Nassau and relatives, from reggae and rice. The sheer isolation and smallness of this town—what did they call it? Pullman? The winter freeze waiting to take hold of it, and of a boy from the Caribbean if he were obsessed enough to stay.