TEMPE, Ariz. — The first day of Arizona State spring football practice was an eye-opener for junior-college transfer Dougladson Subtyl.
“I just saw him down in the locker room and I said ‘how was it, Doug?'” Sun Devils first-year defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said Tuesday. “He looked at me with big eyes and said, ‘fast!'”
The Sun Devils see enormous potential in Subtyl (pronounced Soob-till), who has played just four years of meaningful football and sat out last season while sorting out academic requirements. Bennett admits that picking up the nuances of his defensive scheme may take a little time, but given all the other challenges Subtyl has met, playbooks and on-field reads seem like a trifle.
Subtyl was born in Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere with an estimated 75 percent of the 10.6 million people living below the poverty line and 59% of the population living on less than US $2 per day, according to haitipartners.org.
Subtyl first lived with nine other siblings in a family-built home on the beach that had no electricity or reliable water source.
“We didn’t have washing machines or ovens and you were always fighting to survive,” Subtyl said. “If you cooked food today, you had to eat the whole meal today. You couldn’t save it because we didn’t have refrigerators.”
Subtyl’s mom worked two jobs so once she had finished clothing and feeding her children — if she had the food to feed them — they would not see her again until 9 or 10 p.m. Life got harder when the family moved to Léogâne, a city of 180,000 people, about 20 miles west of the capital of Port-au-Prince.
“People were shooting each other for food,” Subtyl said. “My mom never let me go out. If I wanted to play soccer outside, it had to be behind the house.”
Subtyl’s dad was working as a plumber in the United States and eventually saved up the funds to bring several of his children to Florida. Subtyl attended Flagler-Palm Coast High School where he got his first taste of American football; a game many tried convinced him to play because of his size and athletic ability.
“It didn’t make any sense,” Subtyl said, laughing. “People were just hitting each other and all I saw was a pile of people.”
Subtyl spent his freshman season on the jayvee team but never played. He took a year off, but the sport gained a foothold when he registered his first sack in his junior season and the light went on
Adapting to school in an unfamiliar language (Creole is his native tongue) forced Subtyl to go to junior college at Victor Valley College in California, where he learned under then-defensive line coach Herman Smith, who played eight games over two NFL seasons with Tampa Bay.
Subtyl had 45 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks in nine games during his freshman season in 2014. He led the team with 52 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss and a CCCAA leading 18 sacks in just 11 games during his sophomore season in 2015.
Hoover insists Subtyl (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) has the size, speed and aptitude to play pro football, but that’s a long way from fruition. ASU will likely use him as the Devilbacker position (a pass rushing position) this season, and allow him to grow in their system. He is living with linebacker Koron Crump, who led the Devils with nine sacks last season.
“We study together, hang out together, all that, so it’s somewhat like me being a mentor to him,” Crump said. “Doug’s special. He gets off the ball fast. We’re going to see some good things from him.”
Sun Devils coach Todd Graham hopes so, but the football side seems secondary when he discusses Subtyl’s incredible path to Division I college football.
“When you look at his life, you can’t help but think it’s a blessing to me to get to coach a guy that has overcome and worked and sacrificed and done what’s he’s done to be there,” Graham said.