Former University of Maine DE Mike DeVito made the Jets final roster as an undrafted free agent. Now that he's made the team, can he stick long term? (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Sure, returning an interception for a touchdown is a great accomplishment in the National Football League. Throwing for 400 yards in a game is pretty impressive, too.
Making a team as an undrafted rookie free agent, though? Don’t count on it.
Unless, of course, you are Jets DE Mike DeVito, formerly of tiny University of Maine.
Considered nothing more than a walk on player that would be with the team for a month at most, DeVito has stuck around, outlasting the likes of veteran defenders Andre Wadsworth and Kim von Oelhoffen.
“I think being at the right place and the right time was key,” DeVito said. “They were great players and really taught me a lot, especially Kimo.
”I was very grateful to have him here.”
A Division I-AA graduate, (now called the Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS), DeVito spent the previous four years of his career participating at Hofstra as a member of the visiting Maine Black Bears. DeVito acknowledged that stepping onto the field invoked a bit of déjà vu from his freshman year at college.
“Coming back and seeing the field was interesting,” the defensive end said. “My second career game was actually on this campus across the street (at Hofstra’s stadium, James M. Shuart Field).”
At college, DeVito was a standout for one of the Atlantic 10’s strongest teams. The defensive end finished his career with 112 tackles and 16 sacks. Of those 16 sacks, seven came as a senior, when DeVito, playing as the team’s nose tackle, earned all-Atlantic 10 honors.
About half a year after playing his final game as a Bear, and perhaps his final game of organized football, DeVito received a call from the Jets offering the player a shot to come over to Jets camp with a weekend’s worth of clothes and no guarantees. How long the dream would last was the last thing on DeVito’s mind, though. He couldn’t believe he was about to suit up for the Jets, and was willing to just live in the moment.
“It was definitely exciting to get a call, especially from the Jets, with my family and I being such big Jets fans my entire life,” DeVito said. “I really couldn’t believe it.”
DeVito continued, saying “I hadn’t really thought about making the team. I just wanted to go out and do what I could do, since I didn’t have any control over anything other than what I did on the field. So all I tried to do was let my performance on the field speak for me.”
Now, as the 6’3”, 298 lb. lineman eats a Rice Krispies bar before practice, he seems just happy to still be around, dressed in green and white, three days away from playing in an opener as a member of the team he grew up heeding his allegiance to. He walks around the locker room with a smile, excited to get out on the practice field for another grueling practice in preparation for Sunday’s showdown with his team’s arch nemesis, the New England Patriots.
“It’s exciting and it’s a lot different than a preseason game,” DeVito said. “Everybody is really geared up and excited to get out there against them, and I’m really excited about it."
It is just about anybody’s guess as to how long DeVito lasts with the big club. He could eventually achieve a key role in the defense’s 3-4 front, he may eventually be relegated to the practice squad, or perhaps eventually be released from the team. Yet, when somebody has the mindset of DeVito, where they are just happy to be playing football, each day is another day to make the most of.
And yes, DeVito may have grown up in Wellfleet, Mass., surrounded by Patriots fans, forced to “not say much,” (which he did acknowledge was tough), even though deep down, he was a diehard Jets fan.
Yet, when No. 70 is suited up amongst the Gang Green defense with the likes of superstars such as LB Jonathan Vilma and S Kerry Rhodes, there will be no doubt which team DeVito is playing for, and which team he had earned a spot onto the elusive 53-man roster for.
“My family loves that I’m going to be out there,” DeVito said, laughing when asked if his family is going to enjoy watching him and the Jets beat the Patriots on Sunday.
Who knows? Maybe DeVito’s stint with the Jets will last longer than expected.
Maybe the left-for-nothing undrafted free agent will play a key role in New York success in the future.