Playing It Safe

If you, or I, or most any American, lost seven pounds, it wouldn't be a big deal. But for a finely tuned athlete, one whose body fat is lower than an anorexic Hollywood starlet, it can be cause for concern.

Such was the case for senior running back Noel Devine, who dropped just that amount of weight after a bout of sickness at the Big East media days in Newport, R.I. earlier this week. Devine, who has since put most of the weight back on, doesn't have an ounce of superfluous weight on his five foot, neight inch frame, so losing what amounted to nearly four percent of his total weight wasn't something to be ignored.

Head coach Bill Stewart took some precautions with Devine on day one of fall football camp, holding his star out of post-practice conditioning sprints.

"We couldn't run him today," Stewart confirmed. "He's a rock-solid 178-pounds. His body percent fat is so low that we have to watch him. He has to get his weight back up. When you are as built as he is, and are suddenly five-pounds lighter, that's a big drop."

Health concerns for any athlete suffering a quick weight drop can include dehydration and loss of strength, so the training and coaching staffs are always careful when that situation presents itself. They want to make sure that the athlete isn't in any danger of doing further harm while he rebuilds his strength and endurance. And though it wasn't like Devine was coming back from a case of mononucleosis or the like, caution was still called for.

There's no cause for long-term concern, as Devine himself said that he had put most of the weight back on. Still, the effects were noticeable to the Heisman Trophy candidate. He munched on an apple as he came into the interview area after practice, and asked that the session be kept as short as possible because he needed to eat.

Of course, that's good news, as a return of appetite is usually a signal that any lingering illness has dissipated. Still, Devine could feel some residuals from what ended up being a bad trip to the Ocean State.

"I don't feel a lot of effects now, but I do feel the difference in my body," Devine said of his day on the practice field. "It's in the way I adjust, and I cramp up."

Ever the competitor, Devine wasn't happy about missing sprints at the end of practice. He tripped over his words in his eagerness to refute the notion that he was trying to use the situation to dodge work.

"I'm not trying to get out of sprints. I'm a runner," he said forcefully, at the same time drawing laughs as his eagerness caused him to stumble a bit to get the sentence out. "That's what I was born to do."

Devine joined in the laughter, and admitted, "You got me worked up with that one."

The root cause of the sickness remains in doubt, but Devine has his suspicions.

"I haven't figured it out yet, but I'm thinking it was the clams. I rarely eat clams, but I was open for the experience to try it and see what it was like. I don't think that turned out too well," he said with a rueful smile. "But I'm not off seafood. I'll still eat shrimp. I love that."

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