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Range of college experiences contributes to senior’s success
By Lynn Bolt Rosendale

When describing the highlights of his four-year athletic career, senior Eric “Bear” DeVries fondly recalls Calvin-Hope games: “Even the ones you lose are highlights. The rivalry, the intensity, playing in a packed gym — that was so much fun.”

In fact, it was a Calvin-Hope game that first piqued DeVries’ interest in Calvin. “When [Aaron] Winkle hit the three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime against Hope [in 2000], that was amazing,” he said.

Eric DeVriesSenior, Eric "Bear" DeVries

Being able to be a part of the storied Calvin-Hope rivalry was just one of the reasons DeVries chose Calvin, though.

“I had a pretty good idea in high school that I wanted to be an engineer, so I was looking for a school where I could get a good education in engineering; that limited my choices,” he said.

“I looked at U of M and Kettering [University], but I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue playing there. At Calvin I had the opportunity to do both.”

A soccer, track and basketball participant at Unity Christian High School (Hudsonville, Mich.), DeVries chose to stick with both basketball and track in college.

“I loved playing basketball, and I thought I could make JV and contribute to the team,” he said. “After that I was given the opportunity to develop my skills so that I could contribute at the varsity level. Being a part of this the last four years has been a great experience.”

And for DeVries, the sports experience at Calvin isn’t over. He will compete with the track team this spring, hoping for a shot at nationals in the decathlon.

“I was 16th last year on the qualifiers list, and the top 15 went,” he said. “That’s a difference of like two inches in one event like long jump.”Becoming a decathlete was a natural for DeVries. “In high school I did every event in track except the two-mile, the 100 [meters] and the long jump,” he said. “As a freshman here I started as a thrower, but Coach [Jong-Il] Kim saw me doing basketball conditioning one day and suggested I try the decathlon. Since then I’ve learned to jump and run better than I ever thought that I could.”

Participating in two sports at Calvin along with his engineering major has been challenging at times, DeVries admitted.

“There are always people here to encourage you and keep you going,” he said. “And the coaches are always telling us that school comes first, so you’re able to make that your priority.” Currently, DeVries is involved with his senior design project — an amaranth popper. Amaranth is a grain commonly grown in South America and Africa. It is highly nutritious and easy to grow and harvest. The resale value of popped amaranth is three to four times greater than the unpopped grains. DeVries and the rest of his team would like to design a popper that will improve the economic well-being of amaranth farmers around the world.

“It’s very gratifying working with a group and knowing that it is hopefully going to make a difference,” DeVries said. “We spend a lot of time in engineering talking about stewardship, integrity, cultural appropriateness. It’s rewarding to be able to put some of those principles to work.”

The combination of all of DeVries’ experiences is what has made his college career so satisfying, he said.

“Sports give you the chance to develop skills that other people might not have the opportunity to develop,” he said. “Time management and team- work are skills that employers look for and are skills that sports give you the opportunity to learn.”

Upon his graduation this spring, DeVries will work for Design Conveyor Systems of Michigan. “I’ll definitely be starting a new chapter in my life,” he said. “But Calvin sports have been a big part of my life the last four years, and I hope there’s a way that I can still be involved with that.”