'I know that he can impact the world': How former OSU defensive back Devin Hedgepeth is forging a path in the business world
For nearly two years, Devin Hedgepeth looked at the words he wrote on his whiteboard. They were his motivation. They were his goal.
Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Hedgepeth often woke at 4 a.m. to study for his Graduate Management Admission Test. Sometimes he’d work on his admission essays or research Stanford to make plans.
He then worked his full-time job at ExxonMobil, a Fortune 500 company.
“I just wanted it so bad,” Hedgepeth said.
Hedgepeth was not denied.
A former Oklahoma State cornerback whose NFL aspirations were derailed by injuries, Hedgepeth was recently accepted into the prestigious school that admits just 7.1% of applicants.
Hedgepeth has led an inspiring journey since his December 2014 graduation from OSU. The injuries didn’t knock him down. He turned them into motivation.
“Devin has always been a guy that’s going toward this trajectory,” former OSU safety Deion Imade said. “Everything in life happens for a reason. I think Devin was definitely one of those guys destined for things greater outside of the football field.
“I know that he can impact the world.”
Hedgepeth arrived in Stillwater in January 2010 as a highly-touted recruit from Derby, Kansas.
By that fall, he was in the Cowboys’ starting lineup, against Troy, making key plays against future New York Giants receiver Jerrel Jernigan. Hedgepeth played in 13 games as a true freshman.
But in 2011, Hedgepeth ruptured his Achilles tendon. He ultimately tore it three times within a year.
His football career was over.
Hedgepeth remained close to the Cowboys’ program, mentoring players on and off the field. He became a star in the classroom.
Hedgepeth also developed a mindset of resilience.
“Resilience is not just about overcoming an obstacle,” he said. “It's learning how to leverage that obstacle to make yourself better. How can I find the opportunity in this obstacle that's supposed to hold me back? And how can I leverage this whole situation, so that when I come out of this thing on the other side I'd become better?”
Hedgepeth had never worked at a job a day in his life.
In February 2015, he suddenly was part of a global marketing team at ExxonMobil traveling the globe.
Hedgepeth had to find his place in a new world. Eventually, he found his confidence.
“I had always known that I was more than an athlete, more than a football player,” Hedgepeth said.
Within a few months, Hedgepeth received an email from inside the company. He was selected to give an EM Talk, which is ExxonMobil’s version of a Ted Talk.
Hedgepeth questioned it. Perhaps there were two Devin Hedgepeths in the company.
“In my mind, I'm thinking there's no way you want me to get up in front of an auditorium of 400 people, stream to the 10,000 people at the Houston campus,” Hedgepeth said. “Like there's just no way, right?”
He was assured there was no mistake.
Hedgepeth told his story to the company. He then started telling it around Houston-area schools.
He spoke of resiliency. He wrote an ebook. He started a weekly newsletter.
“People like to say that they have self discipline,” Imade said. “But Devin is the guy that I look towards, and look up to as far as that, like he knows what he has to do to get something done and get accomplished. And he's going to do it no matter what.”
Hedgepeth still celebrates like an athlete.
Now 28, he felt a wave of relief when he was accepted to Stanford. He privately celebrated. But then his athletic mindset kicked in.
His work wasn’t finished. What’s next? More importantly, how could he improve from this?
Hedgepeth isn’t sure what his dream job is after he receives his MBA from Stanford in two years. He has learned he loves leading.
Stanford has a motto: “Change lives, change organizations, change the world.”
“That just hit home for me,” Hedgepeth said.
Hedgepeth could see himself leading an organization. With his current path, the odds are high he reaches that goal.
It’s not the NFL. But it’s the right path.
“If you ask what's in the future for Devin Hedgepeth, it's getting in a position where I can wake up every day and help people's lives, help people get better and be able to drive impact for an organization, for a number of people, wherever that may be,” Hedgepeth said.