Mike DeVito gets a visit from his hometown team this Sunday. And you might think that, being a New York Jet, he'd have a dilemma on his hands facing the Patriots. But DeVito moved to Wellfleet from New York when he was two years old, and is a lifelong Jets fan, so these meetings twice a year are a blast if anything.
The former Nauset Regional star had to grind to get where he is today. After graduating high school in 2002, DeVito went on to play at the University of Maine, where he made first-team All-Atlantic 10 as a senior in 2006. He went undrafted the following spring, but in training camp he beat out Bobby Hamilton and Kimo von Oelhoffen for a roster spot. Last year around this time, his spot on the Jets was more or less made permanent with the signing of a three-year contract extension that takes him through the 2012 season.
DeVito spoke with ESPNBoston yesterday afternoon to chat about life on the Cape, the importance of weight training, growing up a Jets fan in enemy territory, and why you just don't mess with the old man.
Q: When did you first start playing organized football?
A: "It was my freshman year of high school. I was always too heavy pop warner. And where I’m at on Cape Cod, they just started a middle school program (DeVito attended Nauset Regional Middle School). They didn’t have that back when I was there. My grandfather, Ralph Consiglio, coached for 30 years at Suffern (N.Y. High School), and he was a real inspiration for me to come out and play."
Q: Who were your favorite players growing up?
A: "Lets see…I liked Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice…I’ve always been a Jets fan, I was big on Shaun Ellis in high school. Jevon Kearse, too."
Q: How much of a hard time did you get walking around school with Jets gear?
A: "It helps when you’re bigger than everybody else (laughs). But yeah, we do still get it a lot. We’ve been through it so much that we’re used to it by now."
Q: What are memories come to mind from your playing days at Nauset?
A: "I loved Thanksgiving football (Nauset annually faces Dennis-Yarmouth on Thanksgiving). We used to have the little get together the Wednesday before the game, have a fire and team would be there. The seniors would go up and talk, you play the game Thursday morning, then go home and have Thanksgiving dinner, then watch more football."
Q: How about games?
A: "Again, the D-Y games on Thanksgiving, those are the ones I always remember. It was always the last game of the season for both teams. My whole family would be there, there were usually four or 5,000 people there."
Q: You played tight end in high school and moved to defensive end at Maine. How was the transition?
A: "I played nose guard in high school, too. I always liked defense better than offense. I like being physical, hitting guys, not so much running routes and stuff like that. I was basically another tackle on offense anyways, a blocking tight end. I just like being physical with people. Defensive end has always been my passion."
Q: What lessons did you learn from coach Stu Fyfe that still stick with you in the NFL?
A: "I think one the coaching staff really ingrained in us was how important the weight room was. They preached a lot about getting into the weight room, strength and conditioning. It helps that my father was also a bodybuilder…but all that time in the weight room really helped.
"My father, Vinny DeVito, was a bodybuilder…he was Mr. Syracuse, competed at Mr. Universe but then he broke his back. My old man was about 6-2, 245 and he was jacked."
Q: You never challenged him, did you?
A: "No way, there was no wrestling with the old man (laughs). You didn’t mess with him."
Q: You see a number of high-profile players in the NFL that have come out of the Atlantic-10 – or CAA, as it’s called now – but in general, how much of an uphill battle is it for a guy coming from that league to get noticed by scouts?
A: "I think the Atlantic-10 and those teams from the CAA do a great job of that. There’s a lot of really good players from the 1-AA schools, especially the A-10, that are playing significant roles now. There was a time where maybe Maine had nine guys on active rosters. Those schools do a really good job out there, there’s good talent. Back in the days of Stephen Cooper (Cooper, a linebacker with the Chargers, signed with San Diego in 2003 as an undrafted free agent), it was real hard then. But now, they get the players out there."
Q: So is the CAA an underrated conference?
A: "Definitely…you put any of those teams in a 1-A conference and they’d hold their own. You look at the power rankings (for FCS), and there’s always a number of those teams in the top 10."
Q: What’s it like coming home to play against the Patriots?
A: "It’s fun, something you like doing a lot. My whole family comes down, they like to witness the games. Everybody else heads back to New York, but I come back here to the Cape. It’s always a lot of fun. My buddies come to the game at a crossroads, rooting for the Pats and then rooting for me. It’s kinda weird."
Q: Your Jets fervor notwithstanding, when you signed that contract extension in 2009, that more or less solidified your spot on the roster. What was your reaction signing that?
A: "Oh man, it was unbelievable. It was such a blessing, I am so thankful for that. To play in the NFL, and especially to play for this team…I’ve been a Jets fan my whole life, obviously. But to get that extension and know that the team always trusts me to be a good player, it’s really grateful."
Q: Do you hate the tourists?
A: "Man, it’s one of those things that, you can’t stand it, but it fuels the economy there. In the summertime, the place runs off of it. But yeah, it is tough, they have one freaking road on the entire place, and if there’s more than five people sitting and waiting to get into that rotary it just turns into a big mess."
Q: What’s the best place to eat on the Cape?
A: "DJ’s (in Hyannis), best wings you’ll ever have. Best place ever to eat, even still today."
Q: Best beach?
A: "Probably White Crest Beach in Wellfleet. They’ve got good waves there. It’s not too far from the beach that sits behind the Beachcomber, either."