Deontae Veney playing a 'big' role at Minnesota State, Mankato

Aug. 31—(Editor's note: This article is part of the 2023 Pigskin Preview, which will appear in the Saturday, Sept. 2, Post Bulletin print edition. A full list of articles that will appear on this week is at the bottom of this article.)

MANKATO — Deontae Veney is big on challenges.

The Rochester John Marshall graduate and Minnesota State University, Mankato junior is also big, period. The Mavericks' right tackle goes 6-foot-7, 270-pounds.

But there was a time in his life, his senior year at JM, when that girth went away. He went from 310 pounds to begin his senior year all the way down to 240 by graduation. It wasn't on purpose. He was hoping to maintain his weight after having accepted a football scholarship offer to Minnesota State, Mankato, where most offensive linemen roam around in the 290-pound range.

If anyone was going to be able to deal with a 70-pound unwanted weight loss, it was Veney, who's always closer to inviting challenges than waving them away. Once he graduates from college, he intends to work with kids with emotional or behavioral disorders, believing he'll love that challenge.

Gradually, Veney has figured things out with his weight, including recently being diagnosed with lactose intolerance. The Mavericks' standout offensive lineman is 270 now and likely to bump up closer to the 300-pound range by the time his eligibility is up in Mankato in two years.

When it comes to what Veney puts into his system, he's got a new plan. And Veney being Veney, he's inspired by it.

"I found out that the reason I've not been gaining weight is because I am lactose intolerant," Veney said. "I never knew about that until two weeks before this season started. I went to the doctor and he explained it to me after I'd taken a couple of tests. Now, I can't even have anything cooked in butter. But I've been talking to my coaches and trainers about different things that I can eat. It's fun. I like challenges and I feel challenged with this."

There was one challenge that hit Veney in his time in Mankato that he didn't appreciate. That happened in fall camp one year ago, with Veney getting landed on by a teammate and fracturing his ankle.

Not taking the field with his "brothers" was almost too much for Veney. The only consolation with the injury was that he wasn't ruled out for the season. Veney came back to play in six of his team's 13 games, the Mavericks finishing 10-3 and losing in the second round of the playoffs to Colorado School of Mines.

Veney is now as healthy as he's ever been and with high hopes of playing this season's entire schedule of games. The junior is a coveted piece of this team. He recently graded out as its most athletic offensive lineman, something especially important at either tackles positions, mobility at a premium there.

Veney also had a recent practice in which he was voted as his team's offensive most valuable player for that day, all positions in the running.

Minnesota State, Mankato coach Todd Hoffner knows he has a special talent in Veney.

"At tackle, you are protecting the quarterback and blocking in space," Hoffner said. "Deontae is a really good athlete who can block in space. He's rangy and has good speed and agility. He's got a good demeanor, too. He's very into everything he does, and that helps him."

Veney believes this will be an easy season to get "into." He says there is an unmistakable closeness to this team, particularly the offensive linemen.

"We are tight, we are 'brothers,' " Veney said. "The rest of the team likes to think of us offensive linemen as weirdos. We are always hanging out and having fun."

Veney also sees loads of talent on this 2023 Mavericks team. That includes seven offensive linemen returning who got significant action last year, as well as a returning quarterback, running backs and tight end. He also likes the look of the defense.

Playing at Minnesota State, Mankato is different from what he experienced in his years at John Marshall, which struggled to win.

At Mankato, there hasn't been a losing season since 2007. Under Hoffner, who arrived in 2008, the Mavericks have gone a combined 122-32.

"I just really like the culture of winning here," Veney said. "It's fun to be at a place where you are expected to win every game. I love it."


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