May 31, 2011

Former UMaine player's playbook is coming from above

A former UMaine football player now with the Jets delivers messages as well as hits.

By DENNIS WASZAK Jr. The Associated Press

RANDOLPH, N.J. — Mike DeVito cleared his throat a few times, took a couple of steps from behind the lectern and looked out at the dozens of people seated in front of him.

Mike DeVito
click image to enlarge

Mike DeVito, a former University of Maine lineman, gave his first sermon a week ago in New Jersey. He’s considering a faith-based career after football.

Photos by The Associated Press

Mike DeVito, Adam Burt
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With the assistance of Adam Burt, right, a former National Hockey League defenseman, Mike DeVito was able to speak for about 20 minutes last week to a congregation, talking about his faith and how it developed while he was playing football at the University of Maine.

Additional Photos Below

This was no locker room speech or game huddle for the former University of Maine football player, now a defensive lineman with the New York Jets.

DeVito was giving his first sermon at a church filled with congregants looking for spiritual guidance from a special guest.

"I was nervous, brother," DeVito said a few moments after his passionate presentation eight days ago. "But I think it turned out OK."

No doubt about it. Just as he has for Rex Ryan's defense the past few seasons, DeVito got the job done. Just as he did while in Orono with the Black Bears.

"We had a chapel service for our guys and Mike was part of it but not a leader of it," said Jack Cosgrove, Maine's football coach. Cosgrove didn't envision DeVito standing before a congregation, sharing his spirituality, but he's not surprised.

"He was the most sincere kid I've coached. He's genuine. When I took him from a $1,000 (scholarship) to a half scholarship he stood in my office and said, 'Are you sure someone else couldn't use this more?' He was so grateful."

STAYING IN SPIRITUAL SHAPE

A devout Christian who is considering a post-football career as a youth minister or pastor, the 26-year-old DeVito was part-teacher and part-preacher as he spoke about the meaning of faith for about 20 minutes at RCC – a Relevant Christian Church – complete with a PowerPoint presentation. He also threw in a few jokes that drew a roomful of chuckles, and several of his points were met with an approving "Amen!" or "You're right!"

"I'm so proud of him," DeVito's wife, Jessie, said with a huge smile as several people hugged and thanked her husband a few feet away.

While so much focus during the NFL's strange offseason has been on the contentious lockout and how players are staying in shape while they wait to go back to work, DeVito has been using some of that extra time to strengthen his faith.

"He delivered a great message," said a church member, Jay Trevorrow of Flanders, N.J. "I think God has great plans for him."

DeVito has worked closely with associate pastor Adam Burt, a former NHL defenseman who has served as the Jets' chaplain for three years. DeVito regularly studies the Bible and pretty much anything else he can get his hands on that helps him learn more about living and teaching as a Christian.

"When I saw Michael's heart, he has a real passion in it," said Burt.

"As much of a mountain of a man as he is, he loves people deeply. I had no idea that his heart would be like, 'Hey, someday I might like to do this,' but the closer I get to him, I can definitely see the call of God being on his life and that's exciting."

IT STARTED WITH A VISIT

DeVito is a friendly guy with the media, a quiet and easygoing presence in a Jets locker room filled with players who speak their minds, just like their coach.

"But when it comes to his faith in God, if you come and talk to him about that, he's a totally different person," said Jets tight end Matthew Mulligan, who has been best friends with DeVito since their days together at Maine. "In college he would never be able to get up and talk in front of people like Sunday. It's just been a big transformation that I've been able to see."

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

Mike DeVito
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Mike DeVito continues to prepare for a season with the New York Jets, even during the lockout, but also is making plans for life after his football career ends.

  


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