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Devin Funchess makes history, becomes first NFL player to sign professional basketball contract

USATSI

Former wide receiver Devin Funchess has made sports history, becoming the first NFL player to join a professional basketball contact. The 29-year-old has agreed to a deal with the Caribbean Storm Llaneros of the Professional Colombia Basketball league.Β 

Funchess has been on a lifelong journey to fulfill three promises he made to his grandfather, James Hester, when he was younger. Funchess told his grandfather that he would win a Super Bowl, play professional basketball and then become a farmer.

While he never held up a Lombardi Trophy, he got close and played in the big game with the Carolina Panthers, who he played the majority of his career with.

“Going through that process, [to the Super Bowl], it molded my work ethic, my discipline, my understanding of what a brick wall is, how much fatigue is and just how, the routine and regimen, that you got to keep up,” he said.

He was in the NFL until 2022, but played in his last regular-season game in 2019 with the Colts, before an opt-out due to the COVID-19 pandemic and time on practice squads. In the NFL, he finished his career with 164 receptions for 2,265 yards and 21 touchdowns.

His plan was always to finish his sports career playing basketball and he made his professional basketball debut in November of last year, getting one step closer to completing the three promises to his grandfather. In his first game, he played for the Statham Academy in a 2023 AsiaBasket DasmariΓ±as Championship game, finishing with 10 points and seven rebounds.

When he opted out of the 2020 season, putting the health of his grandfather who he helped take care of first, his love of basketball was once again ignited.

“I just started dribbling and once you start dribbling, you just get addicted to it,” Funchess said, after he gave in to his cousin telling him to play basketball again, something he hadn’t done for fear of injury and impacting his football career. That’s what all the greats in that sport say, like you got to do it every day, you got to do it every day and make sure you fall in love with that. So, I was just doing that to kind of cope with something that I never had to deal with — being away with football — then it was just like, this was an outlet for me to think of all the different possibilities.”

Funchess credits that moment with his cousin, Alabama’s Aden Holloway, for bringing basketball into his life.

“He’s my biggest, I tell him, you’re my biggest motivator,” Funchess shared. “He got me to fall back in love with a sport that I thought was all the way retired from.”

Looking ahead, Funchess is looking ahead to open tryouts with the L.A. Clippers G League team, the Ontario Clippers, and the Charlotte Hornets G League team, the Greensboro Swarm.

“I’ve been trying to work so hard to get back stateside and get [my grandfather] into one of those cities locally so he can get out and come see me play,” he said, adding that he would love to play for the Swarm because his family is from North Carolina.

“I’m just trying to be the entertainer for the family still allow them to get different experiences, go different places, see different things. So that’s my job in the family is to live all my dreams so they can enjoy my dreams,” Funchess said.

Swarm GM Cole Teal commented on Funchess’ pursuit of a basketball career, saying he gives him credit for “pursuing his passion and really giving it a go.” He added that playing in a professional league in Colombia is a good start.

“You have to build up a resume and have an organization feel comfortable in taking a risk,” Teal said, noting that the athleticism will translate even if the sports are very different.Β 

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Author: Shanna McCarriston
May 8, 2024 | 5:05 pm

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