Brent Ratliff scrambling for the Utes
The Black Bears of Maine figure prominently in the Jets' 2007 defensive free agent rookie class. After the draft, the team signed six defenders, and two hail from the small university in Orono, Maine, along the Stillwater River.
Mike DeVito, who played nose in school but will probably take snaps at defensive end, actually was born in New York and is a fan of the Green & White. The 6'3", 300-pounder was a two-time All-Atlantic 10 Conference player at Maine.
"No joke, my old man is a huge Jets fan. He's psyched," DeVito told the Bangor Daily News. "That's another thing that makes it so great. My entire family is there."
Playing in the middle of the defense, DeVito racked up 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. After the Jets selected Clemson WR Chansi Stuckey in the seventh round, Devito hoped his name wasn't called at the draft because he wanted to come to Hempstead.
Black Bears teammate and fellow captain Matt King (6'3", 242) also received the free agent call from the Jets. King, a lineman in college who will switch to linebacker, met with Green & White representatives in January at the Inta-Juice All-Star game.
"I got a call from linebacker coach Jim Herrmann and they said they wanted to get me with their last pick," he told the Bangor newspaper. "They took a receiver instead, but they still wanted me as a free agent."
King put up big numbers in '06, registering team highs in sacks (11.5) and tackles for losses (18). The Maine co-captains will join up again next weekend at Weeb Ewbank Hall.
"Mike was surprised and happy we're going to be together," said King. "It'll be great having someone to talk to and go through all this with."
Besides the five University of Hawaii players drafted, five Rainbow players signed free agent contracts with NFL teams. Safety Leonard Peters (6'1", 210) spoke with Eric Mangini when the Jets head coach attended UH's Pro Day at the Home Depot workout facility in Carson, Calif.
"It was the best decision for me," Peters said in USA Today. "There were other teams interested, like the Steelers and Bears, but they already have safeties they drafted. The Jets are the best option for me."
Peters collected 74 tackles, three interceptions and seven pass breakups last year. He has a reputation as a big hitter who can deliver the punishing blow.
Linebackers Jason Trusnik and Mark Zalewski will also learn under Herrmann. Trusnik, a dominant Division III player at Ohio Northern, set school career records with 43 sacks and 85 stops behind the line. The 6'3", 249-pounder has run a 4.66 in the 40-yard dash and squatted 545 pounds.
A team captain at Wisconsin since his junior year, Zalewski led a Badgers defense that ranked second nationally in points allowed (12.08 per game) and fifth in yards allowed (253.08 per game). He started 38 games during his college career, amassing 237 tackles and eight sacks.
"It's just been a stressful time," said Zalewski in a phone interview with The Badger Herald before the draft. "It's hard to not know where you're going to live or where you're going — you're just trying to make a team, and it's pretty stressful. I really just can't wait until after this weekend to really kind of solidify where I'm going to be at and the chance I have in front of me."
The Jets went with Pitt corner Darrelle Revis in the first round of the draft and then went the free agent route to grab Caleb Hendrix, a three-year starter at corner for Southern Mississippi who was an All-Conference USA third-team selection in '06. His 13 pass breakups led C-USA and his four interceptions tied for the team lead.