Tony McDevitt has always been a Northeast guy at heart.
Sure, nowadays he lives in New York City, where he works as a bond trader, and for the past three years, he’s played professional lacrosse for the Long Island Lizards.
But the Far Northeast Philadelphia native regularly returns to his roots.
He recently wrapped up the fourth annual Philly’s Finest lacrosse camp, held earlier this month at Archbishop Ryan High School. The camp, which is open to all local athletes interested in learning the sport of lacrosse, has grown substantially since it’s inception. The first year, about 30 youngsters participated. This time around, there were more than 80.
“It’s going really well. It’s only getting better and better every year,” said McDevitt. “The main reason why it’s getting better — not only am I getting more kids and gaining popularity — but the skills are getting so much better. Kids can catch and throw with ease, understand spacing, get defensive principles.”
Although McDevitt is now at the top of his game, having played professionally within Major League Lacrosse, he was introduced to the sport much later than most competitors.
It wasn’t until his freshman year at Penn Charter High School when McDevitt picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time, and he hasn’t been able to put it down since.
“I was a typical athlete growing up — played football, basketball, baseball,” explained McDevitt, who played for Calvary Athletic Association before earning a football scholarship to Penn Charter. “At Penn Charter, they played lacrosse. Tony Resch was the coach at the time. He convinced me that lacrosse would be a good option for me. I instantly fell in love with it.”
McDevitt was a four-year varsity player at Penn Charter, where he earned All-League honors three times and during his senior campaign, was named All-State.
His high school heroics earned McDevitt a lacrosse scholarship to Duke University, where he was named All-American three times and was listed as the sixth-top defenseman in the country by Inside Lacrosse magazine.
In 2007, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in economics. He went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in ’09.
In 2008, he was selected in the second round of the Major League Lacrosse collegiate draft by the New Jersey Pride. His professional career was short-lived, however. He tore his meniscus that rookie season.
“It all pretty much crumbled from there,” said McDevitt, who also played for the Long Island Lizards. “I’m now taking a year off. I had knee surgery, so I’m recovering.”
Although his playing career is currently on hiatus, McDevitt is certainly staying involved in the game.
“The camp is so exciting because the game is growing rapidly, not just in the Philadelphia area, but throughout the entire country,” he continued. “As the sport grows — we have a lot of talent in Northeast Philadelphia especially — we want to give them another option to try a sport that they might turn out to love.”
The Philly’s Finest camp has no skill level or age requirements, although McDevitt explained that most participants are in elementary school. This year, the cost was $50 per family for the two-day camp. All proceeds benefited the Tony McDevitt Foundation, which provides youth athletes with scholarship money.
“The foundation started this year,” he explained. “I grew up in Northeast Philadelphia, but I was unable to play lacrosse because it wasn’t an option. I don’t want anyone else to wait until high school or never have a chance to play the sport. That’s why I started the camp.
“The foundation coincides,” he continued. “I know what it’s like when every expense matters, especially if you are from a big family. If I can help one or two kids every year who demonstrate they want to receive an education and have that need for help as well as the level of lacrosse ability, that is what this is all about.”
Because he now lives in New York City full time, McDevitt uses vacation time to run the Northeast camp every year. It’s a great opportunity to give back to the sport that has helped accomplish so much in life, he explained.
“I focus my attention on doing it every year. It’s not a big sacrifice for me. It’s a lot of fun,” McDevitt said. “Football deep down is my love when it comes to athletics, but lacrosse is something that played a big part in my life.
“Lacrosse mixes a ton of sports,” he added. “You need conditioning like a soccer player. It has the intensity of football, and is tactical like basketball. There are so many comparisons. For me, I love being active and I’m competitive, so lacrosse is a perfect mix.” ••