Cook County All-Area Football Team Captain: Devan VanNess, Barrington

Barrington's Devan Van Ness is a dinosaur.

He is a throwback to a time when defensive players dominated football.

Van Ness only had one mission on the field and that was to eat his opponents.

He played only on defense where he lined up at the end position. He shredded offensive lines and opponents' passing games.

Van Ness played football like a velociraptor.

He would attack opposing offenses like it was his last meal. If teams would run the read option away from him, Van Ness would find a way to use his speed to run down the opposing quarterback or running back on the other side of the football.

"He's got that intensity and that ability to just be relentless," Barrington coach Joey Sanchez said. "He has all the tools and the skills that he continues to develop. Then there's that other part that you just can't coach and that's that relentlessness that he just robbed the field. You know that you may block him but man you're going to have to work your backside off to do it. Because he isn't going to take a play off. And you better block him till the end because if not he's still going to keep going."

In this day and age of spread offenses and high-scoring teams, it is no wonder that the defensive specialist has nearly gone the way of a dinosaur.

But Van Ness, who is 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, was a throwback to times when teams would count on defenses and their top defenders to make plays. And Van Ness did all season long.

He had an incredible 16 sacks this season to lead the state in that category. He led the Broncos with 64 solo tackles and another 14 assists and was credited with 30 tackles for loss and 30 hurries. He also blocked a field goal.

His play helped spark a resurgence at Barrington this season. The Broncos went from 4-5 and missing the playoffs in 2022 to a 12-1 state semifinalist and MSL West champions in 2023.

For his play, leadership and work ethic, Van Ness is the Captain of the Daily Herald's 2023 Cook County All-Area Football Team.

"I am just trying to do my job out there," Van Ness said. "Our coaches prepped us every single week to do our jobs and be in the right spot. I just trusted the guys next to me and did my job. At the end of the day, I just tried to do my best and it ended up working out."

Van Ness, who started last season for the Broncos and recorded three sacks, credited his offseason workouts to his success this season.

"I had a big offseason," Van Ness said. "I did a lot of training and lifting. Our coaches prepped us well. That preparation in the offseason really helped."

He also studied game film and that helped as well.

"I definitely picked up tendencies on film," Van Ness said. "Also, just on the spot. You have to take advantage of certain things. I was able to pick up when a tackle oversets me or see a tackle down blocking and a running back coming up to block me. I just picked up certain things."

It has been a long time since a player who is mainly a defensive player has been named the captain.

There have been many two-way players in the last 20 years in Hersey's Jordan Hansen (2019) and Barrington's Scotty Miller (2014), who played defensive back along with wide receiver. Dejan Basara (2011) and Nick Meyer (2010) at Elk Grove; Max Cherwin (2006 at Prospect) and Buffalo Grove's Tommy Zbikowski in 2002.

According to former Daily Herald prep editor Marty Maciaszek, the last might be Prospect's Nick Spizzirri, He was a linebacker and offensive guard and was MSL East Defensive Player of the Year.

Van Ness just played defensive end for the Broncos. He also played on the kickoff team near the end of the season.

But his presence was felt when he was on the field.

And as the season progressed, teams would make sure, especially on passing plays, that not only Van Ness would be double-teamed, but that it was usually an offensive guard and tackle that would be doing the double team and not the traditional running back helping out.

In their state quarterfinal game against Maine South, Van Ness accounted for three sacks. And the Hawks, who are no stranger to the spread offense, made sure, especially in the second half, to double team Van Ness.

"We call that serving," Sanchez said. "Serving for something bigger than themselves. Devan didn't care about getting the recognition. He knew that if he was double-teamed, that would free up one of his teammates. And he knew that they could win the one-on one battles. He was celebrating something that was that was bigger than himself because it was for the team, it was for the program and for the community."

The Broncos were able to record 37 sacks, and 67 hurries on opposing quarterbacks helped them to 15 interceptions.

Van Ness's older brother Lucas also played defensive end at Barrington and at Iowa before being drafted in the first round by the Green Bay Packers this year.

The comparison between the brothers is natural.

"Lucas and Devan have that trait where you know they're willing to do whatever it takes to help the team," Sanchez said. "They are also both very similar in regard to their drives. When they decide that they want something nothing is going to stop them or prevent them from finding a way to accomplish it."

Sanchez said that his expectations for Devan were high for this season.

"I'm very proud of him," Sanchez said. "He took on the challenge of becoming not just a great leader, but also becoming a great player. His teammates knew what he was capable of, and they elected him captain for this year's team. Devan's not necessarily a rah-rah guy. I think Devan leads by example."

Van Ness said that interest in him from colleges is just beginning to pick up. He said he feels that his best fit, because of his size, would be as a linebacker in a 3-4 system.

A perfect spot for a Raptor.

John Starks/jstarks@dailyherald.comBarrington's Devan Van Ness forces Naperville Central's Jack Burton to throw an intentional grounding illegal pass on a fourth down attempt with just over two minutes left in a second round of Class 8A playoff football game in Barrington on Saturday, November 4, 2023. Barrington won 28-21.
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