The light went off in an instant for longtime Xaverian Brothers football coach Al Fornaro.
Fornaro and the Hawks were having a little self-competition during an early-season practice. It was a play in the end zone, a jump ball of sorts, and the first of many highlights he remembers from Foxboro native Cooper DeVeau.
“He went up and ripped it out of a receiver’s hands,” Fornaro said, recalling the play by DeVeau, who was only a sophomore at the time. “He wanted it more. He was a younger guy that wanted to prove things.”
From that point on, DeVeau, who was named the Offensive MVP of the Catholic Conference his senior year, was a fixture in the program. He was a vocal leader as a sophomore, despite being on a field with juniors and seniors. It depicted his leadership, which was recognized as a senior captain.
And then there was his play on the field.
DeVeau was a two-phase player as a sophomore, contributing as a return man on special teams and starting safety on defense. During his last two years with the program, DeVeau did not come off the field. He played wide receiver on offense while also showcasing the ability to play in the backfield, like the Hawks’ Thanksgiving game at Fenway Park last fall when he lined up in the wildcat offense.
In addition to his Offensive MVP honor, DeVeau was a First Team All-State selection his senior year and two-time Catholic Conference All-Star as a junior and senior. He played defensive back in the Shriner’s All-Star Classic in June and recorded one interception.
DeVeau had 22 receptions for 400 yards and two touchdowns his senior year while he also rushed for 65 yards on 12 carries.
On defense, DeVeau totaled 45 tackles, two interceptions and forced one fumble, which went for a scoop-and-score for a touchdown.
“He was our best player last year, all around, because of all the things he did,” Fornaro said. “In baseball, they call it a five-tool guy. He was very elusive, always had good speed. He was one of those guys who was very productive.”
DeVeau’s productivity with the respected Xaverian Brothers program has led him to the next level. He committed to play football at Ivy League, Division I Brown University.
DeVeau will be one of 10 former Xaverian players to be competing in the Ivy League. He said there are five former Hawks at Brown, three at Yale and two at Dartmouth.
“It’s a little bit of a shock honestly,” DeVeau said. “I went into Xaverian and see all those kids playing Division I football, Ivy League football. It got me thinking ‘I hope I can.’ And now that I actually am, it’s pretty crazy.”
DeVeau committed to Brown in January after a stressful period. He was originally offered during the season before the Brown coaching staff was fired. He then went through admissions again, was re-offered and committed.
“I knew this is a place I want to be,” DeVeau said of receiving a offer during his official visit in January. “It was pretty cool. I like the Providence area. I was more interested in being in a city.”
DeVeau also received offers from Bentley, Merrimack, St. Anselm’s, Colby and Tufts.
“The priority was academics and then athletics,” DeVeau said. “But when I kept thinking about it, I couldn’t really pass up the dream to play Division I football.”
During the four years DeVeau spent with the program, Xaverian compiled a 33-8 record.
The Hawks won the Division 1 South title in three of his four years, including both his sophomore and junior seasons, when he was on varsity.
In the 2016 postseason, the sophomore DeVeau and the Hawks defeated Franklin, Catholic Memorial and then Boston College High in the South Sectional title game. And in the 2017 postseason, the junior DeVeau and Xaverian recorded three dominating wins over Attleboro, Needham and Catholic Memorial for their fifth consecutive sectional crown. They lost in the Super Bowl to Everett both years.
DeVeau and the Hawks unfortunately lost in the Division 1 South finals to Catholic Memorial during his most recent, senior season. The Hawks won the Catholic Conference when DeVeau was a freshman, sophomore and senior as well.
Those are among his favorite memories.
“Even though we didn’t come out on top at Gillette, that’a a crazy memory,” DeVeau said. “I’ll never forget that. And then Fenway Park was awesome too. And I know my Foxboro buddies, they won the night before. I watched it on the YouTube stream.”
DeVeau, who attended Ahern Middle School before Xaverian, said some of his favorite times in football came with former Foxboro High Warriors Tommy Gallagher, Phil Thomas and Hunter Williams as a member of the Foxboro Youth Football program.
“I wish I was back there again, back on the Payson Field,” DeVeau said. “I just remember it being a lot of fun, practicing every day. And I have to thank all of my coaches all the way from Pop Warner to high school. They really made me love the game of football more and become a better player and person.”