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We can all learn a little something from Tommy DeVito’s story

The rookie QB’s path to success hasn’t been easy, but that didn’t stop him.

Illinois v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Plenty of ink has been spilled over the past few days about former Illini Tommy DeVito’s storybook rise from undrafted free agent to become a legitimate NFL quarterback over the course of his rookie season. All of that praise has been well-deserved, and he worked hard to earn every bit of it.

Put bluntly, Illinois does not have a solid history of quality quarterback play (kind of reminds me of another orange and blue team...). There have been a few bright spots over the years, including Tony Eason leading the New England Patriots to Super Bowl XX, Jeff George being chosen as the first overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft, and Kurt Kittner having a fairly successful pro career after being drafted in the fifth round in 2002. But no Illini quarterback has gotten a serious look at the next level since Kittner left the league in 2005.

That’s led to some pretty depressing and crazy stats like this one:

A few Illini quarterbacks did receive tryouts with NFL teams since Kittner, including Juice Williams (Bears, 2010), Wes Lunt (Vikings, 2017), and Brandon Peters (Chargers, 2022). None of them were drafted. Not even Nathan Scheelhaase was signed to an NFL roster, despite holding the all-time record at Illinois for career total offensive yards.

So what makes Tommy DeVito different? Like the other names above, he didn’t hear his name called in the NFL Draft, and he largely flew under the radar in NFL circles until the past few weeks.

Resilience is often thrown around as a buzzword in the sports world, but DeVito embodies the concept, and it’s what sets him apart as a player. He faced a litany of challenges at Syracuse, including injuries and coaching changes, which prompted him to bet on himself in the transfer portal. Traveling across the country to a school without a history of much football success and with a still-new coach didn’t faze him either. Instead, he was able to thrive under Bret Bielema’s tutelage.

It didn’t get easier in the NFL, as he bounced between free agency and the New York Giants practice squad for a while, before joining the Giants active roster following Tyrod Taylor’s injury. When one of the most prestigious franchises in the history of the NFL turned to DeVito as their starting quarterback, he didn’t blink and made the most of his opportunity.

Not everyone would’ve embraced those challenges, and others may have decided to go in a different direction with their lives once adversity hit. But DeVito’s resilience and determination to succeed in the sport he loves has so far defined him at both the college and professional levels. I join Illini fans everywhere in hoping that those traits lead him to a long and successful NFL career for many years to come.