On January 1, 2017, Tommy DeVito suited up and took the field in his last high school football game. Except this time, it was not in New Jersey and he was not in the familiar maroon and white uniform. This game was in Orlando and he was competing in the Under Armour All American game.
The invitation of a lifetime came last September after practice. Tommy accepted the invitation on the spot, without any doubt in his mind.
The impressive list of past athletes who made their way to Florida to compete and their future success in football made the decision clear. He knew from the start this was an opportunity he was not about to pass up.
After many anticipation filled months, Tommy finally boarded the plane headed for Orlando, Florida. Nervous excitement filled his body the entire way – he will remember the next few days for the rest of his life.
Upon arriving at the hotel, he received a backpack filled to the brim with Under Armour gear - from jackets to shoes, and everything in between.
Following this, an Under Armour representative ushered him to a large room sectioned off for players. Here, Tommy received his shoulder pads, helmet, and cleats. In addition, he had an official photo shoot with the game jersey.
The next day, players got the first taste of the schedule. At 6:45am, everyone gathered to enjoy a hearty breakfast to fuel their minds and bodies. After breakfast, football started.
Coaches penciled in time for classroom each morning. Here, the players discussed what to expect from practice that day and brushed up on the playbook. Classroom was beneficial to their growth and preparing them for the game, but when they walked out and headed for the football field, everyone felt amped up and in their element.
Practice spanned from 10am-1pm everyday. The schedule was consistent: walk tru, team stretch, individual drills, routes on air and 1v1, 7v7, special teams, and finally, team scrimmage.
Throughout the week at practices, Tommy learned under one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL, Deion Sanders. Coach Sanders made a point of implementing the same elements into their practices, as he does when coaching professional players. Being able to learn from one of the most recognized and respected players is a privilege Tommy will forever be grateful for.
“Really being in his presence was an honor,” he says.
After practice ended, players ate lunch and enjoyed downtime with their teammates. This time was extremely special for Tommy. Not only did he form bonds with players from all across the country, some of which he will one day play against, but he also reconnected with players who shared the journey through the Elite 11 with him.
Each night, Under Armour invited special guest speakers to share a message with the young athletes, who have their entire lives ahead of them. One speaker gave a message that really hit home for Tommy, and many other players.
The speaker shared a personal story of his son. He was an amazing football player with a bright future, just like all of the players sitting in the room. However, he made one stupid decision and lost his life in a car accident. Just like that, his promising life was taken forever.
That day, a bunch of the players reflected on the message, which reminded them of the effect one mistake can have.
“I believe that made a huge impact on a bunch of these player’s lives from now on,” says Tommy.
Over the course of his time in Orlando, Tommy experienced fun adventures each night such as bowling, exploring Universal Studios, and attending an Orlando Magic game.
Yet, the best part of the week, besides the game, was New Year’s Eve. Every player felt magnified excitement and anticipation for the game, taking place in less than 24 hours.
Players went from room to room hanging out with new friends for their last night. For Tommy, there was no better way to ring in 2017.
Finally, on Sunday, the day they dreamed of finally arrived. When the teams made their way to the locker rooms, all of the gear had been placed perfectly in a locker with their name.
The game kicked off at 1pm, and Tommy was the first quarterback to take the field for Team Highlight. While watching his performance on each down, ESPN recruiters could not praise him enough. His quick release was marveled at and described as, “something you can’t coach.” The recruiters even compared him to Washington quarterback Jake Browning.
“To see that they noticed that and to give me praise for it is something you don’t get everyday,” Tommy says.
The game was back and forth, with both teams excelling on offense and defense, but in the end Team Armour pulled away with the win, 24-21.
With the title ‘Under Armour All American’ added to his list of accomplishments, Tommy joins elite company, including Julio Jones, Jameis Winston, and Leonard Fournette. Playing in a game recognized for its history and decorated athletes means everything to him.
“I am honored to be called an Under Armour All American,” says Tommy.
With high school football behind him, Tommy DeVito is ready for the future. Next stop, Syracuse.