Former CU football player abandoned his own playbook, followed God’s instead

Mark Haas

As a tight end on the University of Colorado football team, Patrick Devenny was never afraid to be public about his Christian faith. 

“I was the guy that would always run out of a tunnel before the football game, take a knee and say a prayer,” Devenny said. “But my prayer was always, ‘please let me score a touchdown pass and keep me healthy.’”  

Devenny grew up in northern California, raised mostly by his mother after his parents divorced. He said his grandmother was devoutly Catholic, which inspired his faith as a young adult. 

“It always felt like the right thing to do, but I never really knew why I was doing it,” Devenny said. “Whatever it was, it was more of a one-sided relationship. ‘What can I get from God?’ ‘How can he help me reach the NFL?’ …that kind of stuff.” 

Christian groups were popular among the CU athletes according to Devenny, but he recalls feeling like they were a bit superficial. He said he also became intensely focused on worldly successes, and how he could create them for himself. He said his motto became, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.” 

“I became obsessed with psychology of the mind and sports psychology,” Devenny said. “So, removing God, and now it’s me. And if I want my own destiny, I’ll go get it. How can I be the creator of my own destiny?”  

Devenny enjoyed a successful football career at CU, playing in 29 games and scoring six touchdowns from 2007 to 2009. He wasn’t selected in the 2010 NFL draft, but he was invited to off-season workouts with the Seattle Seahawks.  

Patrick Devenny enjoyed a successful career as a tight end for CU-Boulder’s football team from 2007 to 2009. After sustaining a training injury that ended his football career, Devenny began to struggle with his identity, which led to an eating disorder and depression. It was at this point that Devenny began to find his way back to his faith. (Photo provided)

“I had a cup of coffee [in the NFL] is what I like to say,” Devenny said. 

Devenny was cut from the roster before the season though, and a training injury held him out for several months. It ended up being the end of his football career as no other calls ever came from the NFL. 

It was also the start of some challenging years of his life as he struggled to find his identity, while still chasing worldly success.  

Devenny had jobs in commercial real estate and the entertainment industry, living a fast-paced life in Los Angeles and later a couple of years in Mexico. 

“I thought I would be [in] Forbes 30 under 30,” Devenny said.  

But Devenny said he continued to compare his life to others around him, and any success he had always ultimately left him feeling empty and wanting more.  

“I had about five years of just extreme depression, highs, lows, eating disorder, all of it.” Devenny said. “But it felt like if I could achieve worldly success, I could solve any of those issues.” 

And then in 2015, his mom unexpectedly passed away. 

“I just hit a huge spiral,” Devenny said. “I became super depressed, with suicidal thoughts, eating disorder went through the roof. I felt like there was so much uncertainty in my life that the only thing I could control was how I looked.  

“That’s when I started to question – what does the private plane matter? What would it have changed? My mom passed away in her sleep. I don’t know if that would have been solved by living in a mansion.” 

Devenny moved back to Denver at that point, and eventually reached out to some friends he looked up to, who independently all pointed him in the same direction. 

“After the fourth one, I was like, ‘are you guys all talking to each other?’” Devenny said. “They all were pointing back to God.”  

Devenny listened, and at the encouragement of one of his friends reached out to a former coach, who insisted Devenny go home and read Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” 

Devenny said those were the first seeds of returning to a life of faith.  

“I started to realize what I was actually missing in life, and it wasn’t that private plane, it was my relationship with God,” Devenny said. “It’s not about me and my plan, but it’s God’s plan and there’s a bigger plan.” 

Devenny said at first he was drawn to some of the big Christian churches with rock music, fog machines and passionate speakers.  

“You go through a tunnel of people greeting you, then you go over, you get your coffee and donuts, you go sit down, the music’s great,” Devenny said. “It’s pretty hard to find something not to like.” 

But then Devenny met his future wife, Stephanie, a Catholic and former FOCUS missionary, and they started going to different services together.  

“I thought I was going to convert her,” Devenny said. “Every time I would think to myself, ‘I’m going to win this.’” 

That is, until he met Father Brian Larkin at Our Lady of Lourdes.  

“After the first meeting, I knew I was in trouble,” Devenny joked.  

When Devenny met his future wife, Stephanie, he began attending Mass with her at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver. This eventually led to his conversion to Catholicism. (Photo provided)

Devenny said Father Larkin would ask him questions that eventually made him realize he had been approaching his faith the same way he had approached most of his life.  

“Are you going to church for God, or are you going to church for what are you getting from God?” Devenny said. “When I was going to other places, it was always about what am I getting out of that service, as opposed to what am I doing in that hour to glorify God.”  

Devenny said he still had his questions and concerns about the Catholic Church, but after experiencing how fleeting things are in this world, was drawn to the permanence of the Church and a closer relationship with Christ.  

“Seeing my mom pass away unexpectedly and seeing my dad have cancer and all these things where life was ripped away, the only constant in that entire scenario is God, right? And having that relationship,” Devenny explained. 

Devenny said he has nothing bad to say about the other churches he initially attended, but that he just found more in the Catholic Church.  He went through RCIA and was confirmed in 2019.

“There’s so much history, truth and beauty in all of what the Church teaches. Everything was the opposite of everything I was used to from the sense of I’ve always lived for that instant gratification. And there was such a beauty – even through the six-month RCIA program – of the wait,” he concluded. “And it has a bigger payoff than just what can God provide for me now.”

COMING UP: Five tips for reading the Word of God

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Sunday, Jan. 24 marks “The Sunday of the Word of God,” instituted by Pope Francis last year and to be held every year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time. This may strike us as odd, as we might think to ourselves, “but isn’t the Bible read at every Sunday Mass?” Certainly so. Not only that, but every daily celebration of the Mass proclaims the Word of God.

What’s different about “The Sunday of the Word of God,” however, is that it’s not just about hearing the Bible read on Sundays. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith notes, it “reminds us, pastors and faithful alike, of the importance and value of Sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy: ‘As Christians, we are one people, making our pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who speaks to us and nourishes us. A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the Risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with Sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, inflicted as we are by so many forms of blindness.’” This gives us a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect on the Sacred Scriptures. 

There are two means by which God Divinely reveals truths to us: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. As such, the Bible is not merely a human document, nor simply a collection of amazing stories that call us to do heroic things, or a collection of wise sayings. Rather, the Scriptures are “inspired.” St. Paul has a beautiful teaching about this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.” By “inspired” we mean that God is the principle author of the Bible.

Certainly there were different men who physically wrote the words on the papyrus. Yet these men were influenced by the grace of inspiration to write, not just their own words, but God’s. And so the Scriptures are a mysterious congruence of Divine and human authorship – the human writers capably made full use of language, literary forms, creativity, and writing style to communicate their message, yet they did so under the grace of Divine inspiration. This means that while they wrote in such a way that they had full freedom to write as they wanted, what they wrote was also, “to a tee,” exactly as God wanted written. God is the principle author of the Bible, the human author its secondary writer. Such inspiration is how, despite the various human authors, events, and historical and cultural contexts behind the 73 Biblical texts, we’re still left with only one story since they all have the same one primary author. 

Given that the Bible is the written word of God, I’d like to offer a few “tips” for reading the Bible, since it certainly cannot be read like any other text. 

1. Pray! We must pray before opening the Scriptures for enlightenment from God. We must pray after reading in thanksgiving to God. And we must pray throughout reading in order to encounter God in Scripture and apply it to our life. Of course, the tried and trusted practice of praying the Scriptures is Lectio DivinaThe Ladder of Monks by Guigo II is the ancient resource for Lectio Divina, while a helpful book to get you started is Dr. Tim Gray’s Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina

2. Remember that you are in no rush. The important point is encountering Christ in the Scriptures, not racing through them. Speed reading isn’t reading, after all, much less when applied to the Word of God. It’s not about getting through the Bible, but encountering Christ therein. That may be a few chapters at a time or may actually be only one verse that you pray with. Whatever the case, slow and steady wins the race, as Aesop reminds us. 

3. We have to read the Scriptures regularly, daily if possible. We read in Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Meditating day and night. A good way to start would be to read one Psalm a night as a part of your nightly prayer. Ever better would be praying that one Psalm with your spouse, if married. 

4. Do not worry about starting on page one and reading from cover to cover. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the text. We all know about Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Moses and the Plagues. But how many understand animal sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus or its purity laws? It’s very easy, starting from page one and flipping straight through, to lose sight of the story of salvation history. Start from page one if you’d like, but don’t feel like you can’t start with whatever book (especially the Gospels) that you find yourself drawn to. 

5. Come take classes with the Denver Catholic Biblical School! In chapter eight of the Book of Acts, we read of an Ethiopian Eunuch reading from the Prophet Isaiah. When the Deacon Philip asks him if he understands what he’s reading, the Eunuch responds, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” This is what we at the Biblical School are here for – to guide you in your encounter with Christ in the Sacred Scriptures. We’re in the middle of our Scripture classes already for this year, but we always start new classes in the fall every September. And in the meantime, we have plenty of things still coming for this year – a class on Catholic Social Teaching that begins on Jan. 27 a lecture series for Lent that starts on March 1, a conference on the Sacred Heart being offered on May 15 and Aug. 28, and a six-week class on St. Joseph in the summer starting in July. We have something for everybody – just reach out to us!