After nine years in the NFL, Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman
For DeVito and his family, staying in Kansas City was important.
It’s the reason he reworked his contract this offseason to remain with the Chiefs for the 2015 season.
"I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” DeVito explained. “Going through this process with Mr. (John) Dorsey and coach (Andy) Reid, you couldn't have two better guys to go through a process like this with.
“As much as you know there's a business aspect to this and they have to do what's best for the team and you have to do what's best for your family, you know that those guys care about you as well.”
But for DeVito, the want to stay in Kansas City was about more than just financial numbers or the respect for two men inside the building.
“The fanbase, the organization as a whole, Kansas City, since I've got here, I've been amazed with the people,” DeVito shared. “How great the people are, how much fun my family's had in the city.
“You take all those things into account when you're going through stuff and when you get to be my age, nine years in the league, you start to look at other things than just the financial aspect of it.”
This mindset from DeVito didn’t surprise general manager John Dorsey, who couldn’t have more respect for the veteran player.
“He's a guy that was totally committed to what we're doing here,” Dorsey said of DeVito. “There's nothing like being committed to the Chiefs way. We're going to do it the right way. He's got a great passion for the game.
“There's a man that you have to totally respect because he puts team over I, and I applaud him for that and I thank him for that."
Chiefs coach Andy Reid agreed.
"That loyalty is important,” he said. “We try to preach that as coaches. [Dorsey] does a great job with it in negotiations. The Hunts have set this thing up based on family and so once you’re a Chief, you're always a Chief."
That family atmosphere, which is often discussed by those within the organization, has made an impact on DeVito.
“There are no egos in that locker room,” DeVito said. “It's really a family-team mentality. A lot of people say that, but we really have that in that locker room. So you weigh those things and I was so happy that we were able to get that deal done and now, get back to football."
For DeVito, getting back to football means overcoming the significant injury he suffered in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans last season. He ruptured his Achilles after just 26 defensive snaps in that game and was put on injured reserve just two days later.
"Of all the things I've been through in my football career, last year was by far the hardest year I've had,” DeVito said in this exclusive interview. “Going into work every day and watching the season go by and not being a part of it, it was tough.
“Every day I woke up and just felt like something was missing.”
Despite playing in 97 games in his career, and in 12 or games or more for six straight seasons, DeVito had to watch the rest of the Chiefs’ season from the sidelines.
He joined the Chiefs in 2013 after following defensive coordinator Bob Sutton from the New York Jets, where the two had been together for the previous six seasons.
Even with all that experience, DeVito learned a valuable lesson from his injury-shortened 2014 season.
“One thing I will never do and I didn't think I did before, is take football for granted,” he said. “It can end so quickly and it’s difficult when you're out of it.
“This year, every second I get to be on that practice field or that game field, I'm going to make the most of it."
In order to come back from that injury, DeVito had to lean on the Chiefs athletic training staff, which he couldn’t be more complementary of in helping him get back to where he is today.
“If they have an All-Pro team for athletic trainers, Rick (Burkholder) would be the MVP,” DeVito said. “He's incredible. The treatment that I got there working with those guys with Aaron (Borgmann) and Rick was just top of the line.
“Those guys have your back 100 percent. They know how to motivate me. They were checking in on me, calling me every day when I wasn't there, making sure that I'm feeling good. They still check in with me all the time.
“The program that they've built for me has gotten me back better than I've ever been.”
For DeVito, the road to recovery from his torn Achilles wasn’t one he had to go through alone, as perennial Pro Bowl linebacker
While it can never be seen as a positive for two of your leaders on defense to be injured, the fact that they were able to go through the rehab process together might have benefitted them both.
"With the type of leader that [Derrick Johnson] is and the example that he sets, I was able to try to compete with him and catch up to him in these drills, which is difficult to do,” DeVito explained. “This is one of the most athletic, competitive guys in the NFL and I get to train with him and compete with him every day to get back, so man—that was incredible.
“If I had gone through this process without him, I'd be in a totally different place.”
One thing is for certain; the Chiefs are in a better place because DeVito and his family wanted to stay a part of the Kansas City community. Not just because of what he’s able to contribute on the field, but because of the example he sets and leadership he provides to a young football team.
Mutual respect between a player and the organization, combined with the support of a community has put the Chiefs in a better position than they would have been if that weren’t the case. It’s truly a synergy that manifests itself on Sundays in the fall at Arrowhead, a time DeVito is excited to experience in uniform once again.
“I can’t wait to get back out there.”