Devon Key is a man that holds himself to an elite standard not just on the field, but off of the field as well.
Named to the 2020 Wuerffel Trophy watch list for community service, Key is undoubtedly a leader for the Hilltoppers and in Bowling Green.
Hailing from Bryan Station High School in Lexington, Kentucky, Key has left his mark on the WKU Football Program in ways even he didn’t expect. The record books don’t lie.
Key picked the Hilltoppers over Toledo, Navy, Miami (OH) and three others. Committing to WKU on October 12th, 2015, the defensive back was rated two-stars by Rivals, a very overlooked rating seeing as how Key’s career has panned out.
To say Key was a standout in high school would be an understatement. Playing offense and defense, the versatile playmaker had just under 600 yards receiving along with nine touchdowns on his way to First Team Associated Press All-State and Second Team All-State by USA Today.
His most telling accolade would come in the form of All-City Defensive First Team by the local Lexington Herald Leader. This designation would foreshadow his stellar defensive career for the Hilltoppers.
The Commonwealth native redshirted his freshman season on The Hill and returned with a vengeance the following season. In 2017, Key was the season-opening starter at safety for WKU recording 94 tackles on his way to C-USA All-Freshman honors.
In 2018 Key showed his ability to create game-changing turnovers as he would total 71 tackles, three for loss, and a team-high three interceptions, one of which he would return for a touchdown versus Maine. This earned the 6-foot-1 210-pound safety an All C-USA honorable mention for his sophomore year.
Last season Key was again crucial for the nine-win Hilltoppers as he would rack up 93 tackles, over two for loss and a interception return touchdown. His efforts in 2019 would earn him another All C-USA honorable mention.
Coming into this season Defensive Coordinator Clayton White preached that Key was learning both safety positions in order to make he and the WKU defense more dangerous. This is something the hard-nosed tackler has embraced.
“I love being able to know both positions,” Key said. “Going back and forth gives me the ability to know that I can be on the field at all times no matter what happens and I just kind of embrace the challenge.”
Key has led a defense this season that returned nine starters. Although there is leadership behind him and others, he knows the importance of developing the entire defense behind him.
“Guys are interchangeable…if one guy goes down the next guy can step up and know just as much as the first guy,” Key said. “It’s really a good thing that we have a lot of experience out there on the defense.”
With great experience comes great responsibility. Despite the Hilltoppers returning so many starters and owning 25 seniors on the entire roster, WKU has had it’s share of struggles defensively in 2020.
“It’s definitely not up to the standard we had for ourselves at the beginning of the season,” Key said. “We have a lot of seniors on defense, a lot of returning guys that know how to play ball, so it’s definitely not what we expected.”
Giving up over 30 points on five occasions thus far in 2020, Key and the Hilltopper defense have rebounded in the last couple weeks. WKU gave up 10 in a close loss to FAU two weeks ago, and then held Southern Miss to just seven points last week.
“We’re just looking to continue that success…we got to bring the energy…just looking to improve each week, that’s our goal,” Key said.
In the Southern Miss game, Key was able to establish himself as possibly the best tackler in program history. With takedown number 327 for Key, he became the all-time leading tackler in the FBS era for WKU.
“I didn’t even know I was that close,” Key said. “It’s definitely an honor to even have my name up there.”
Key added 10 more tackles to his total this past Saturday in Western Kentucky’s 38-21 win over FIU.