“Coach Renzo”. This is how majority of the football fans identify Renzo Devia, one of the persons with the highest contributions in the development of this sport throughout the national territory. He’s been involved in Colombian football since 2011, and has won two National tournaments with Pumas (a team from Bogotá), and has contributed to the growth of other clubs like Storm (from Cájica), as well as leading sports clinics to promote this discipline in different cities of Colombia.
Devia was born in New York. His parents are from Bogotá, and this allowed him to obtain the double nationality. He lived his first years in Colombia, but at the age of five he returned with his family to the United States.
“When I came here (to New York) I started playing baseball. I began throwing the ball a lot, but at the age of 12 I had my first football approach, due to a friend from Afghanistan, who was practicing the sport (…)”, he says.
His first experience with the American football was at the age of thirteen, when he attended to a camp. Because of his good height, was chosen to play as a defensive end. Over the months, Devia transformed his position into the field. His ability to throw the ball made him a quarterback. “The quarterback position came naturally. I didn’t like to hit others, or get hit. Today I still throw the ball to de-stress”, he adds.
He studied High School at Varsity School, being the team’s official quarterback with only 14 years. During his last school period, the club won the New York Championship unbeaten, with a record of 11 games won and zero lost. With his excellent performances, Devia began to receive scholarships to study at some of the most recognized universities of the United States, such as Penn State or West Virginia, among others. His final choice was the University of Kansas, but he failed to be admitted due to some low academic grades. He began to study at a Community College in the same city, with the objective of improving his grades.
He alternated his university studies with his great passion, the American football. Whenever he could, he practiced it. One day, while he was playing a match with the Community College team, he injured his knee. The diagnosis wasn’t encouraging. The anterior cruciate ligament (ALC) of his knee was affected. This had a negative effect on his game, causing his 40-yard dash to extend from 4.7 seconds to 5.0. As a result, the coaches decided to remove him from the team. “I went into complete depression. I had sold everything to move to Kansas, but thank God I learned that in this world there is not only one way to reach your dreams”, says Devia.
The injury was left behind. After what happened, Renzo returned to New York to study Television Production at the University of Albany. Meanwhile, he joined the Bayside Riders, a semi-professional team in which he played until he turned 24.
Due to his good grades at Albany, Devia began working at one of the biggest television networks, Univision. He stopped playing football, though he never gave up on it, as he taught some of the younger members of the team.
“I noticed that my years of playing were already running out, so I started to teach the younger ones. I loved to teach, but I didn’t know that I would like to train. I started playing Flag Football and, unconsciously, managed my teammates. Although, honestly, I decided to be coach in Colombia”, he says.
Devia returned to Colombia in 2011. Once he arrived, he was spontaneously linked to Pumas D.C. team in Bogotá. During those first days, two players (from Pumas) invited him to dinner. They told him that the final game of the National Tournament was against Lobos (Medellín). Coach Renzo received a proposal: the players wanted him to be their Offensive Coordinator in the most important game of the season.
“I threw the playbook to the trash and made about five or six plays. We practiced them for two weeks and won the National Championship. After, I was named head coach. I couldn’t believe it. I started to develop the team and in 2012 we returned and won the tournament”, adds Devia.
During 2013, coach Devia founded different football camps in some of the most important cities of the country, such as Bogotá, Cali and Medellín. The next year, he was involved in the development of Storm, Cájica’s town team, reaching a roster of 53 players. In the same year, Devia returned to the United States and receive the official certification of head coach, beginning his new job with the Brooklyn Bengals (from New York).
Renzo Devia’s life is a constant combination of travelling between Colombia and the United States. He’s been committed to several projects, such as the promotion of sports clinics in which he teaches deep knowledge about different positions. Also, he’s training the New York Crusaders, another US semi-pro team.
Devia talked about some of his most memorable moments in his sports’ career. “Winning the National Championship with Pumas in 2012 was very important, but obtaining the high school´s championship unbeaten is one of my highest achievements (…). Then, I learned a lesson. My dad and my coach told me: you have to lose to learn how to win… And when we won against Toros, I was able to enjoy it, it was very beautiful. From that moment, I realized that in Colombia there is something special with American football”, he concludes.
Renzo Devia`s life story has been linked to American football, a sport that hasn’t been traditional in Colombia, but that has gradually gained strength and relevance. He’s a television producer and the New York Crusaders’ coach. This shows that his passion for this sport remains intact. The love for this discipline has led him to work together with FECOFA, promoting one of the most important projects that has been done in the country related to this sport: The Colombia National American Football Team, where he’s the main head.
¡Thank you, coach Renzo! Your dream is coming true.