This story is courtesy of SI.com. Mike DeVito is a regular contributor to the Sports Chowdah.
When Michael DeVito retired from the NFL three years ago, he traded Sundays at the stadium for being in church. Game plans and gap assignments for theology and Calvinism. The former New York Jets defensive tackle just completed his second master’s degree in Philosophy, Science and Religion. It sets him up, he hopes, for a return to campus not as a coach but in the classroom.
He hopes to transition from quarterback pressures to professorship, with an eye towards eventually earning his doctorate.
DeVito is one of those loveable players from the Jets team a decade ago that made consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances under head coach Rex Ryan. An undrafted rookie free agent, a mixture of natural athleticism and nimbleness combined with strength and an unquestioned work ethic elevated DeVito to become a prominent part of the Jets for six seasons.
After his time in New York he played the final three years of his NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs till 2015 and is now settled back in Maine, where he went to college. DeVito’s passion in recent years has become learning and knowledge, blending his Christian faith with a desire to push his intellectual curiosities.
“All I want to do is read,” DeVito said. “I know this has to be from God because there is no other way to explain why, all of a sudden, a meathead like me wants to read more than he wants to lift weights.” \
The transformation has led DeVito to choose a book over television. The only time he flips on the set, nowadays, is to watch cartoons with his young family.
The love for learning, in particular about the tenets of Christian faith, have infected DeVito.
Mike DeVito poses in front of his ever-expanding library of theology and philosophy books (DeVito)
Several years ago, he obtained his first master’s degree from Houston Baptist University in Philosophical Apologetics. In early April, he completed his second graduate degree in Philosophy, Science and Religion from the University of Edinburgh.
His thesis took three months of studying and writing to complete.
“My hope is to eventually become a college philosophy professor. I wish someone would have told me about philosophy as an undergraduate,” DeVito said.
“All it would have taken was one course and I almost certainly have been hooked. It would be so rewarding to have the opportunity to teach philosophy to young students and watch some of them fall in love with it the same way I have. It’s a lofty goal—philosophy teaching gigs are reserved only for the best minds—but when the journey is as rewarding as the goal it’s always worth a shot.”
DeVito’s walk towards becoming a professor (he is actually working on a third master’s degree as well) began in his senior year of college when he made a profession of faith and became a Christian. It took a deeper step he says when he got involved with the Bible study held by the Jets when he came to the NFL. He and teammate Matt Mulligan formed a lifelong bond through their mutual faith, one that carries both of them to this day.
Easter Sunday will be a bit different for DeVito as there won’t be church to attend. The celebration of Easter, which marks in the Christian faith the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the victory over humanity’s sin nature, is a poignant time for DeVito as it is the foundation of his beliefs.
His family will be attending church online due to social distancing.
With many churches closing their doors temporarily due to COVID-19, DeVito sees a possible positive in the growth of online services being offered by local churches. It doesn’t replace going to church, he says, but it can be a good resource and outreach tool to the community.
The recent closing of churches to help flatten the coronavirus curve has led DeVito to have to sharpen his own faith in unique ways.
As a family, we have been enjoying watching church service together on-line from one of our local churches here in Maine and we plan on doing the same thing Easter Sunday,” DeVito said.
“Another silver-lining is that being quarantined has forced my wife and I to teach our kids about God and not just hand them off to the Sunday school staff. I’m praying that this time will result in the building of a strong spiritual foundation for my boys.”
In terms of what is next, DeVito says it is to get his doctorate, or what he calls “the intellectual black belt.”
“A great friend and mentor, Dr. Tyler McNabb has taken me under his wings and prepared me for this next journey—similar to that of a defensive line coach getting me ready to play on Sunday,” DeVito said.
“I’m going to start applying to schools this May and will hopefully be in a PhD program by the fall.”