The seats in Sun Devil Stadium are empty. Construction on the new video board resting atop the “North Inferno” student section is still underway, and the sprinklers attempting to revive the grass from a dry Arizona winter remain the most interesting things to take the field since early November.
However, it’s a momentous day for Sun Devil football.
Highly-touted recruits, new coordinators, star veterans and reporters alike are gathered inside a suite overlooking Frank Kush Field, participating in Arizona State’s Spring Football Mini Media Day.
As expected, much of the media focused on the ongoing quarterback battle, meeting with offensive coordinator Billy Napier and Alabama transfer quarterback Blake Barnett, while some crowded around star receiver N’Keal Harry to ask how he can follow up such a promising 2016 campaign.
However, not every area of the room is accompanied with media and excitement.
Folded into thirds and resting on a table in the quietest corner of the suite sits a small piece of paper with a pitchfork and a name printed across it: DOUGLADSON SUBTYL, LB, it reads.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive end is sitting at a table by himself and facing away from the action, but has a slight smile on his face.
Doug Subtyl is a junior college transfer from Victor Valley College in Southern California, and even for a JUCO transfer, his journey to Division I college football is an extensive one.
Subtyl grew up in Haiti, and moved to Florida with his father when he was 13 years old. Although he’s been in the United States for a few years now, he still reflects on how different his new home is.
“It’s a lot different here,” Subtyl said. “The lifestyle, the way people dress, the cars, the house, everything’s different.”
After learning how to play football for the first time in high school, and becoming very good at it, Subtyl ended up with 20 scholarship offers to play college football. Unfortunately, his grades didn’t meet the par, and he ended up at a junior college. His stop in Victorville, Calif. didn’t halt his pursuit of a Division I football program, though.
In two seasons, Subtyl tallied 39 tackles for loss and 27 sacks at Victor Valley, all while gaining attention from recruiting services and rising up ESPN’s rankings as the ninth overall JUCO product.
Subtyl would choose Arizona State as his next destination, but due to complications with academics, he was forced to sit out and wait yet another year for his dream of playing Division I football to come true. In spite of the delay, he never let himself get discouraged.
“Life is gonna hit you everywhere, all the time,” he said. “Just be prepared to take it step by step.”
It’s clear that Subtyl really believes in this message. He never dropped his smile during our conversation, which is something I asked him about.
“Inside football and outside football, I’m just a positive person,” he said.
Though not only does Subtyl emanate a sense of positivity and light-heartedness, he also sets high goals for himself.
“I was able to get 15 sacks in JUCO, but now my goal is to get 25 sacks,” he said. “I want to break Terrell Suggs’ record (24 sacks in a single season).”
Subtyl certainly came to the right school. In six years under Todd Graham, the Sun Devils have built a defensive identity around blitzing. Last year, Arizona State finished fifth in the conference in sacks and had one of the top pass rushers in the Pac-12 in Koron Crump, someone Subtyl may often find himself rushing opposing passers alongside this season.
Don’t let Subtyl’s cheerful demeanor fool you—he’s as aggressive as they come at the line of scrimmage.
“That’s something I love, blitzing the quarterback,” Subtyl said. “Just hitting the quarterback. I always get in trouble when I hit the quarterback at practice, but now I just hit the dummy.”
Not only does Subtyl have a positive opinion of his new head coach, he also has a connection with his defensive coordinator. Phil Bennett began recruiting Subtyl when he was just 15 years old. Subtyl noted he really enjoyed having a relationship like that in a new environment.
“He was at Baylor when he recruited me, he wanted me to come out there and play (a position similar to) Devilbacker,” Subtyl said. “"I didn't really like Baylor but I did really like him.”
Subtyl is easy-going, but understands there is work to be done before spring ball starts. Between injuries and a new play-caller on defense, there’s a certain level of uncertainty as to where Subtyl will end up come fall.
“I’ve talked to coach Bennett and I’m not sure what position he’s going to put me at,” Subtyl said. “He wants me to stay around 240-245 (pounds).”
This required weight from Bennett is likely a result of his desire to place Subtyl at the Devilbacker position, where he could provide much needed depth to a unit decimated by injuries last season. Bennett had high praise for Subtyl and his unit ahead of spring practice.
“One of the things that I do like about both of them is Koron is fast, and Doug -- he’s been out of football for two years -- and he’s still quick and can run,” Bennett said. “We have what we call a ‘Speed Team’ and I can see those two at ends with (Tashon) Smallwood and JoJo (Wicker) inside, that would be four pretty good rushers.”
Subtyl primarily played on the line at Victor Valley, but said he prefers to be in a linebacker position.
“When you’re at the linebacker, you see more. When I’m at the defensive end, I only see half the field,” he explained. “But at the [line]backer, you see almost everything. I think I can produce more outside because I see more.”
While this is his most likely landing spot on the team, he may be a bit blocked at the top of the depth chart. Senior linebackers Crump and Alani Latu figure to be the starters at Devilbacker, leaving Subtyl with a lot of work to do to impress the coaching staff.
Instead of worrying about this situation though, Subtyl of course focuses on his journey and how excited he is to be a Sun Devil.
“It’s crazy to see myself here, I’m just ready to see how it feels out there,” he said. “I’ve never played in front of a big crowd like that.”
Subtyl also predicted he would have to deal with his nerves, but remained confident in his ability to stifle them.
“I think I’m gonna be nervous. It’s my first time having so many people watch me, at least on my first play,” he said. “My second play should be fine.”
Subtyl knows that he’s competing at a much higher level at Arizona State, knows there are high expectations for the program, and understands he has lot of work to do before his dream becomes a reality.
Most importantly, however, Subtyl knows to remain confident through this transition.
“I finally made it here,” he said. “It’s time to start working on my legacy.”