This is the 22nd blog post in my series on Christ Followers in the NFL. Today, we go into the trenches in New Jersey to check out the story of Mike DeVito – Defensive End for the New York Jets.
Mike DeVito is in his 4th year in the NFL after a decent playing career at the University of Maine where he was a team captain in his senior year and a 2 time all conference Nose Tackle. He joined the Jets in 2007 as an undrafted free agent, and earned a roster spot. He made his debut later that year and has since worked his way into a starting position. This year, he finished with 34 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and a sack despite missing time with knee injuries. He has also had shoulder surgery since the season ended last weekend.
Now not too long ago, there was some question as to whether this NFL season would happen at all. The lockout and labor dispute dragged on through the summer, passed the time when teams would normally have started their team activities and training camps. How did DeVito spend the his time during the lockout? Well, I am sure that he had his regular exercise regime that NFLers go through on their own. But he also took on a challenge to build his resume for his post-football career. Check out this story from bostonhearald.com and this story from thejetsblog.com . We read in this article that DeVito has expressed an interest in pursuing a career in ministry, maybe as a youth pastor when his football days are over. So he accepted the invitation to preach a sermon at RCC in Randolph, NJ . He also enjoys talking to student athletes about their faith and about letting their relationship with God be the foundation that they use for the choices they make for the rest of their lives.
DeVito grew up in a non-christian home in Massachusetts. But it was an encounter with, of all people, mormon missionaries coupled with the death of a close friend that helped DeVito realize that he needed to figure out who God was going to be in his life. As he began to search these things out, he started confiding in U of Maine teammate Matthew Mulligan, who is a Christian, and spent this past season as DeVito’s teammate on the Jets.
When DeVito arrived in the NFL, he immediately connected with a couple of Jets teammates who were Christians and they began meeting for Bible Study. He also met with Jets chaplain Adam Burt, who himself played in the NHL for 13 seasons with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers and Atlanta Thrashers, and is now a pastor at Morning Star New York.
|DeVito (center) in a service led
by Adam Burt.
He continues to earn respect and recognition for his play and his attitude, being mentioned by Jets head coach Rex Ryan as one of the strongest and most underrated players on the team. He also won the 2010 Kyle Clifton Good Guy award which the Jets give every year to the player that according to Wikipedia, is given in recognition of a players “consistent willingness, cooperation and professionalism in everyday dealings with various departments in organization.”
Here are some thoughts that I had while reading through the Mike DeVito Story:
1- God uses anything to draw us to Him
I think it is really cool that DeVito began his search into who Jesus is by meeting some Mormon missionaries. Mormons are sometimes grouped in with Christian churches, but there are substantial differences between Mormon theology and Evangelical Christian theology. The differences are serious and Mormon beliefs do not line up with the true story of who Jesus is, and who God is. But the fact that they were willing to talk about Jesus stirred DeVito to checking into the story himself. He decided that he didn’t want to follow the path of Mormonism, but rather follow the God that revealed Himself to DeVito through Bible Study and experience. Now, a few years later, he is taking whatever opportunities he can to tell others about the real Jesus, who He is and how they can encounter Him for themselves.
2- Study Study Study
I really like how the article on DeVito talks about the importance of studying the Bible, calling it the most important playbook to study. Life is a battle. Hard things come at us all the time. People we know get hurt, we face hurdles we never imagined we would have to face, it is a battle everyday. As Christians, we face attacks all the time, too. Satan wants to steal, rob and destroy. There is spiritual warfare all around us at all times. Just like any successful army needs to have a battle plan and every successful sports team has a game plan to key on certain things that will make victory more attainable, we need to have a plan to deal with the hard things and attacks that we face in life. The book that has a plan to deal with all of these attacks and battles is the Bible. The more familiar we are with it, and the more ready to execute what it says – the better our chances for success will be. Ultimately, our greatest success in life will come when we get out of our own way and trust God and the plan he has for us.
3- God challenges us to step out of our comfort zones –
|DeVito mid-sermon at Relevant Christian
Church in Randolph, NJ.
These are some great lessons to take for me. I can certainly use the reminders to do more studying of the playbook, and trusting God more when things get uncomfortable. God has an amazing adventure for us. Let’s pray that He can help us trust Him enough to let Him lead us wherever and to whatever He wants.