Life After Football: The Story of Mike DeVito


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To be the best you can be as an athlete doesn’t come from natural talent alone, but from the commitment to the cause.

Former Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets defensive end Mike DeVito understood this from a very young age growing up in an Italian household where the children’s game of finding what you’re good at was not an option.


“I grew up in a household that didn’t promote the philosophy of today which is to take three sports and go from there,” DeVito said. “My parents said you’re gonna play football and that’s that.”

DeVito’s family had many members which included his grandfather who coached high school football for 30 years and introduced him to the game at a very young age.


“My grandfather was really a mentor in my life,” DeVito said. “I had him as kind of my football influence early on and I remember pop always had the games on and was teaching me football at an early age, we’d go outside and he’d throw the ball to us and teach us the little things about the game.”

DeVito would get the toughness aspect of his game from his father, who introduced him to one of the most important parts about football—weights. As a former professional bodybuilder, DeVito’s father laid the foundation for his son and he began pumping iron almost as early as his grandfather stared him with football.

“From an early age I was lifting weights and playing football,” DeVito said. “My dad had us doing push ups and sit ups and things like that around the house but he was a big believer to not to start to lift heavy until high school so it was the Summer before my freshman year of high school that I started lifting.”

DeVito went forward with the mentality that he wasn’t going to be the most talented player, but the man who would outwork and outmuscle everyone on the team with days spent in the gym. Even until today, DeVito barely takes a day off with only twice taking a week off from gym time because of meningitis and shoulder surgery since he was in eighth grade.


With his combination of running and lifting four to five times a week, he found his way onto both sides of the football at Nauset Regional High School at defensive end and tight end. However, he preferred the simplicity of getting of defensive end and getting to the quarterback. It was clearly his natural position as it would get him onto the varsity football team as a sophomore.

DeVito also did track and field in high school, but not because he particularly enjoyed it, but to spend more quality time with the football coach who was the track and field coach as well.

“I was a member of the track and field team because the football coach was also a coach on the track team,” DeVito said. “So all of the football players would take track so that we could have a reason to work with our football coach. I don’t think I ever competed, we just did it to lift weights and run with the football coaches.”

The work he put in started to pay off in his search for further education as colleges began to inquire about DeVito in his junior year trying to get him to play for their school.

However, DeVito always had a vision of joining the military and attended visits to West Point and Air Force. He ultimately chose to go with his passion for the sport of football and decided to attend the University of Maine much to his father’s dismay at the time.

“I remember my Dad was so upset cause he wanted me to join the military,” DeVito said. “He told me ‘if you don’t go to West Point, you better play in the NFL’ so I remember thinking well I just bought myself four years of college but I actually ended up making good on my promise.”
DeVito during his time with the University of Maine. Photo:

That’s exactly what DeVito did. Although the First-team All-Atlantic 10 player wasn’t drafted, he immediately received a call from the New York Jets, who were coached at the time by Eric Mangini. The Jets were the team he grew up a fan of, as he was originally from Suffern, New York.

DeVito went into Jet’s camp as an undrafted free agent who used his fight to beat out two established Super Bowl champions in Bobby Hamilton and Kimo Von Oelhoffen for a spot on the 53-man roster. He held onto to that roster spot playing six seasons with the team playing alongside some of the games great defensive linemen in Muhammad Wilkerson, Shaun Ellis, and Sione Po’uha.

But the energy would not change until Rex Ryan took the reigns as head coach.

“Anybody who knows Rex [Ryan] knows he’s going to make that process fun,” DeVito said. “Going from [Eric Mangini] to [Rex Ryan], those are two fantastic coaches, but to have Rex who was really the opposite of coach Mangini system which was more kind of laid back and just win on Sundays and that was a fun experience as well to experience the NFL from that light.”

In his first few seasons under Ryan, DeVito was a part of the team’s that competed with their rival New England Patriots for the better part of two years, including beating Brady and Belichick three out of the five matchups they would go head to head—which DeVito recounted as a very fond memory.

“It was totally nuts,” DeVito said about Ryan’s victory in the first matchup against the team. “To come in with Rex, the new system and to go and beat Tom Brady and the Patriots that was just a lot of fun, we really had a good time doing that.”

DeVito had a lot of fond memories after that, one of which included flying home during the NFL Playoffs and seeing the Empire State Building lit up in the Jet’s team colors as the city celebrated the success of one of their teams. One of the times he cherishes the most in his NFL career was another matchup against the Patriots where his team pulled off an upset against the 2010 No.1 seed 28-21.

“Beating New England, at New England in the divisional game after they had beaten us 45-3, that was just out of this word,” DeVito said. “That was the biggest game I’ve ever won, I remember Bart Scott yelling at Sal Paolantonio after the game.”

Jim Rogash:Getty Images North America.jpg
DeVito (No.70) tackles running back Danny Woodhead (No.39) in their upset victory in the 2011 Divisional Playoff game. Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images

DeVito played a few more seasons with Jets along with his best friend tight end Matthew Mulligan before moving on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs. Now retired from the NFL, DeVito is remembered as one of the most under-appreciated members of those Jets defenses and for being an enforcer against the run.

He retired with 5.5 career sacks, which would come against some of the game’s greatest and most prominent of today in Russell Wilson, Derek Carr, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Peyton Manning.

Despite his solid career, DeVito still believes that he could have done and given more to the game—paraphrasing a line from Brady’s internet series Tom vs. Time.

“Tom Brady last year did a Facebook thing called Tom vs. Time where he said ‘If you’re gonna compete against me, you better be ready to give your life, cause I’ve given mine to be the greatest at this game’,” DeVito said. “So I look back at the game and think I didn’t do that. I could’ve given more than I did, I could’ve put more in and maybe I could’ve been one of the best defensive lineman in NFL if I had just given more effort.”

Today, DeVito put the days of using his body behind to now use his mind, as he has now transitioned into being a full-time student. He recently received his master’s degree from Houston Baptist University and is working towards his seconds master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh in hopes of one day earning his P.H.D.

Despite feeling he didn’t leave it all on the field, he cherishes this time by being able to spend it with his two kids who are four and two years old in a family oriented life after football.


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