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SALT LAKE CITY — Devaughn Vele was on his way out of the program.
With the future on his mind, the fourth-year sophomore opted to take part in senior day festivities and offered to anyone that asked that his plan was to pursue an NFL dream at the conclusion of the 2022 season. But that was before Utah's improbable return to the Pac-12 championship game and now a second Rose Bowl berth.
As a two-time Pac-12 champion, Vele is running it back and has committed to another season at Utah, the football program announced on Twitter on Monday morning.
"POV: you see another year of Utah Football in your future 👀 Devaughn Vele is coming back for the 2023 season 🙌."
The San Diego native told media a week after the Pac-12 championship game that over the last few weeks he'd been "thinking about it a lot" and was "leaning more toward staying another year, trying to get better film out there and be able to try to three peat with these guys."
Though his decision was not final at the time, Vele pointed to "a lot of good players coming in," in addition to "what the offense is gonna look like, who's gonna be leading the team" as a reason for his consideration. Part of that decision wrested on whether Cam Rising returned to Utah for another season as the team's starting quarterback.
Rising also announced his decision to return for a chance at a Pac-12 championship three-peat and position the team for another potential College Football Playoff run. On Monday, tight end Brant Kuithe announced his return back to Utah, as did fellow tight end Thomas Yassmin on Sunday.
Vele started his career at Utah as a walk-on receiver and eventually earned a scholarship as the team's "secret weapon" on offense going into the 2021 season. He worked his way up to become the team's No. 1 wide receiver and finished the season with 695 yards and five touchdowns on 55 catches, just behind the team's leading receiver in tight end Dalton Kincaid.
Vele was a consistent target for Rising all season and a key contributor to an offense that averaged 252.5 receiving yards per game, which is the team's highest in the Pac-12 era. He suffered an ankle injury that limited his play in the Pac-12 championship game and mostly was used to fair catch punts.
But even in the limited role, Vele said he wanted to be on the field with his teammates and be a part of another Pac-12 championship game.
"It hurt me a lot to work towards a goal like that, to play in the championship game with your brothers, and then you can't even be a part of it," Vele said. "I was only out there fielding punts, but I wanted to do anything I could to be a part, to help them. I told them whatever they need me to do.
"It was something I just wanted to make sure I could contribute as best as I could, because that's what you work for all season."
Vele now gets the chance to try to do it again.
POV: you see another year of Utah Football in your future 👀— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) January 9, 2023
Devaughn Vele is coming back for the 2023 season 🙌 pic.twitter.com/ipCqmV7dC5