Mike DeVito was born to be a Jet. Literally.
Even though his family moved to Patriots country – Cape Cod, Massachusetts – when he was a kid, DeVito was as New York as his relatives in Brooklyn. And so, when the defensive end went undrafted in 2007 coming out of the University of Maine and the Jets offered a free agent contract, he didn't need to think twice.
"Obviously, the Jets were a team that I would love to sign with because I rooted for them for so long," DeVito said. "But my agent also kind of had this algorithm, where he figured where you're best going to fit. And New York happened to be the team, given the players that were on the roster, the contracts, coaching. That checked all the boxes. So, it was the best decision for me career-wise to sign with them."
One of the Jets who DeVito specifically rooted for while he was in college was defensive end Shaun Ellis.
"I really looked up to him, and he was a major reason for me making the team. He took me under his wing and was an awesome veteran to me (along with Kimo von Oelhoffen and Bobby Hamilton)," DeVito said. "I think those guys did a good job of helping me brush it off when I made mistakes, and kind of having a short-term memory. You can't let one bad play bother you.
"When you're coming in as a rookie, especially an undrafted guy, obviously you're going to make mistakes. And so, those guys, especially Shaun, did a great job of just keeping me confident. And then just taking time to invest in me as a friend. You hear a lot of horror stories about guys coming into the league and its very cold shoulder because you're coming to take somebody's job. But these guys weren't like that."
DeVito and his dad chose to bide their time in a Dick's Sporting Goods store on Long Island during the final cutdown day, waiting for the six o'clock deadline and hoping his cell phone wouldn't ring. It didn't, and DeVito became the only rookie on the Jets' defensive line.
Being inactive during the first half of the season gave DeVito the opportunity to learn about life in the NFL and experience game days under no pressure.
"Yeah, that was huge. I have so much respect for guys, especially guys who get drafted early, and have to get out there and play right away. Because I don't care who you played for in college, the NFL is an entirely different ball game," DeVito said.
"To get the opportunity to practice for half a season, to kind of be on the practice squad even though I was on the active roster, and learn how the guys prepared for games and study opponents, was really a benefit. It helped me when I got ready to go.
"And this is during an Eric Mangini time (as the head coach), where study, preparation, all that stuff is vital. I mean he drilled that stuff home. That was non-negotiable. So, I got seven weeks of studying football at the pro level. That foundation didn't just carry me through the 2007 season, but for the rest of my career."
With the Jets for six seasons from 2007-12, DeVito totaled 202 combined tackles, two and a half sacks and six forced fumbles. He was also credited with a safety during the 2010 AFC Championship Game against Pittsburgh.
It was, however, a divisional playoff game that season against the Patriots, which is one of the DeVito's fondest memories with the Green & White.
"Going to New England after they had just beaten us by 40 points (45-3) a few weeks earlier and sticking it to them on their turf (28-21) when they're 14-2 and Super Bowl favorites, that was awesome," DeVito said. "Especially being a guy from New England. And not only a guy from New England, but a guy from New England that grew up a Jets fan. That was just so great on so many levels."
Concluding his nine-year career by playing three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, DeVito retired in 2016. What makes him most proud of his career?
"I don't know if it's common with most players, but you think about the missed opportunities, you think about the things you messed up on. I don't remember a lot of the good times. You remember the times where you wish you would have done better," DeVito said.
"I got to meet and cultivate friendships with a lot of awesome people. Shaun Ellis being one of them. Sione Po'uha being one of them. Derrick Johnson, Bart Scott, Matt Mulligan, my best friend. I had so many guys that I had an opportunity to really build a strong friendship with that has continued to this day. So, that's what I'm proud of and most grateful for."
Following football, DeVito made the transition to the academic world and earned two Master's degrees in philosophy. He recently applied for programs in pursuit of a PhD.
DeVito is also the co-host of a podcast called 3-Point Stance with Aaron Jackson and Sterling Pingree.
"I've been really blessed to find two guys who are just pros at what they do," DeVito said. "We just had Damon ('Snacks') Harrison on the podcast, so I get to connect with a lot of guys I played with. Just have fun conversations. And that's what's nice about the podcast format, you can take it wherever you want to take it. There's no blueprint, there's no box that you have to stay in."
Making their home in Bangor, Maine, DeVito and his wife, Jessie, have two sons and counting.
"My oldest son, Rocco, is six. I can already see the making of something special in him. So, I'm trying to cultivate that and help him to grow. One thing about this Covid and being quarantined, it's really given me the opportunity to plug in and take that role as teacher for him. I've really enjoyed it," DeVito said.
"Sal is three and a half. He is a tough, fiery young man, but has a big heart, as well. And again, I've had the opportunity to spend time with him. That's the great thing about not just the silver lining with this quarantine, but the fact that football has provided me the opportunity to stay home and be a full-time dad. And so, I get to watch them grow up, which is incredibly rewarding.
"And my youngest, who has yet to be named, is on the way. His due date is October 28."