Middletown Native Devon Carrillo '17 Still Has More to Accomplish
Devon Carrillo's dream was to come to Wesleyan University and succeed, and he is making that dream a reality.
A Middletown native, Carrillo resides with his mom, Sheree, step-dad Tim, his two brothers, Cody and Alex, and a sister, Jolie. He also has another sister, Cierra.
His connection to Wesleyan runs even deeper than his Middletown roots, as he competed frequently against Jake Whalen, the son of then head football coach and now Athletic Director Mike Whalen '83 in high school. Whalen was first exposed to Carrillo as a wrestler, not a football player. "Devon got on our radar through wrestling." Whalen said. "I then got the chance to watch him play football here (Corwin Stadium) on Thanksgiving, and he was Middletown's whole team as he played quarterback, ran the ball...everything." It was then that Whalen began to speak with Carrillo and his family about possibly taking a post-graduate year with Jake at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. "I spoke with Devon and his parents about the post-grad year. Devon was gearing more towards athletics at the time, but after the discussion and a visit, Devon committed to the academic process." Whalen called the post-grad year a "transformative" one for Carrillo as it not only challenged him on the field, but in the classroom as well.
Carrillo passed up the division one ranks and a full scholarship to come to his hometown school for many reasons, one being, "the ability to both play football and wrestle." He went on to say, "Wesleyan also offered better opportunities for me outside of athletics in terms of the education and opportunities after graduation." Whalen, who is not only a Wesleyan alum, but was also a dual-sport athlete in football and wrestling, offered plenty of first hand knowledge. After the post-grad year and discussions with Whalen, Carrillo realized that Wesleyan would be the place for him, not just because of its budding athletic programs, but because of the opportunities that having a Wesleyan degree can bring.
Playing such physical sports like Carrillo does can be taxing, but his mental approach sets him apart and allows him to excel on the field and on the mats. His head coach, Dan DiCenzo, who also played football and wrestled in college, was happy to see his player return to the mats after taking almost three years off from the sport. DiCenzo said the decision to go back to wrestling was all Carrillo, and he believes it was a good decision. "We all wanted to see him wrestle," DiCenzo says, "It was about getting back to his core values and doing what he loves." DiCenzo continued by saying, "You can see his success on the mat has carried over to the field this year." Carrillo said that he needed the time off, but that he's happy he returned to the mats. Competing in two grueling sports can take a toll on the mind and body, but Carrillo is not phased. Whalen says that Carrillo is an "incredibly gifted athlete and he could probably play other sports if he wanted to." Both Whalen and DiCenzo believe that the extra competition and ability to stay in shape is a great benefit for Carrillo, whom DiCenzo says "loves to work out and train," and Carrillo believes that "once you wrestle, everything else becomes easy."
Entering his senior year at Wesleyan, Whalen and DiCenzo have seen Carrillo mature and turn into a better athlete, student and leader. DiCenzo notes that Carrillo has taken on a mentor role with freshman Dario Highsmith, who is also from Middletown. In addition to that, DiCenzo says that Carrillo's infectious personality draws people to him, and Carrillo has welcomed that and become an "outstanding leader for our team." Carrillo has taken an 'unconventional' path according to DiCenzo, as the wide receiver started out as a safety, then moved to linebacker while also playing special teams and seeing time in the wildcat package. He was eventually moved to offense full-time his junior year, and has been a valuable asset to the team. "He's a special player," DiCenzo says. "He can score three touchdowns like he did in the Colby game, and then block and open up holes for his teammates the next game. He's a complete player and everything you'd want as a coach."
For Carrillo, the ceiling is as high as he wants it to be. Whalen says he has the "size, speed and athleticism to get an invite to an NFL camp, and he also has the size, speed and athleticism to win a National Championship in wrestling. It all comes down to what he wants to accomplish." Carrillo came close to winning a National Championship last year, as he advanced to the NCAA Tournament after his three-year hiatus from the sport. "When people who know wrestling talk about what Devon, did taking that amount of time off and coming back and doing what he did…it's unprecedented," Whalen says, and DiCenzo agreed saying, "not many people can take that amount of time off and do what he did, and it shows a lot about his work ethic and drive."
Carrillo, who says his best moment is "still yet to come" is looking forward to hopefully defeating Little Three rival Amherst as "we let the past two games get away from us so beating them on Homecoming in front of all the alums coming back is a must, we have to beat them." With his mentality of "I'm going to beat everybody," that just may happen.
Written by Lauren Dellipoali, Athletic Communication Intern