Third-year defensive end Mike DeVito is right where he wants to be: in Cortland, N.Y., and playing for the New York Jets.
He's no longer the undrafted free agent who escaped the 2007 off-season cuts. The 6'3", 305-pounder has earned a role on this team, playing in all 16 games last season and grabbing 28 tackles in a backup role.
"It's an amazing blessing. I'm so grateful to be here," DeVito, who was born in New York and raised in Massachusetts and grew up a Jets fan, said this weekend. "I'm grateful for this organization taking a chance on me and keeping me around and I'm going to keep working hard for these guys because this is my dream to play here."
DeVito is good with the time he's been getting in at practice. He's playing behind a group of guys that includes veteran DEs Marques Douglas and Shaun Ellis. If one of them were to miss time for any reason, DeVito would be there ready to fill that starting role.
"There are some really good players starting, so I'm glad to get those reps," he said. "I think we have one of the best O-Lines in the NFL. Playing against them gets me some really good practice against really good players."
DeVito should get some quality playing time in the first preseason game against St. Louis at the Meadowlands on Friday night.
"Friday is the first real challenge," he said. "It's exciting. Once that starts going, then you know that the season is rolling. It's always fun to get the first one in."
Last December, the former All-Atlantic 10 standout at Maine was in on his first sack, of Shaun Hill at the 49ers, which he shared with linebacker David Harris. With the first one out of the way, DeVito looks to get a few more in 2009.
After Saturday morning's practice, in which he got a would-be sack on Clemens against the second offense, he said, "I'm trying to get a lot more sacks this year."
His hard work and dedication have earned him praise from his coaches over the past two seasons. This year he's been learning a new system that head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine have been implementing to improve a defense that ranked 16th in yardage allowed last year.
"There is a little more up front for us to make calls and get ourselves set in the right spots versus last year when the linebackers did a lot of work for us," he said. "This year we do a lot of the work getting us set left and right and getting us going."
Along with new methodology, Ryan has fostered a different environment with this team. Players' confidence levels have been at an all-time high in this camp and Ryan should be credited for some of that optimism. It's obvious that he respects their dedication and willingness to work hard for the same goal. And they respect him back because he has been looking out for their best interests.
The coach decided to have practices on the grass field to relieve the stress on their bodies. He'll have them sit out a few days post-injury to workout with head strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi trying to prevent recurrences. He even took some players to Cooperstown, 100 miles east of Cortland, and the Baseball Hall of Fame to take their minds off of things on their day off.
DeVito is one of those guys who likes the way things are going.
"We're getting great work in the morning and then a later practice in the afternoon, still getting good work in, but our bodies are staying strong," he said.
"Rex is taking good care of us."