Does Tommy DeVito have a future with the Giants?

(Editor's note: The article below was originally published on Dec. 11, 2023, hours before New York Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito led the team to a 24-22 victory over the Green Bay Packers on "Monday Night Football". DeVito completed 17 of 21 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown, also rushing for 71 yards in a win that lifted the Giants to 5-8 and onto the fringe of the 2023 NFL playoff picture.)

ON A TUESDAY night in late November, hundreds of people gathered outside Primo Hoagies in Wayne, New Jersey, in 30-degree weather.

The line stretched past a handful of local storefronts -- a jewelry store, a bank, a clothing boutique -- all the way around the side of the strip mall, approximately a quarter of a mile to the back of the building.

The crowd was made up of New York Giants fans waiting to meet undrafted rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito, who had just made his third start for the Giants after spending most of the season on the practice squad.

"I had to come. I saw it on Instagram," Giants fan Phil Capiello said. "I went and bought a couple helmets. Couldn't miss this. We already have a couple jerseys coming too.

"The [New] Jersey element to it, it's like one of my cousins is playing or something."

That evening DeVito fielded requests that ranged from signing helmets to posing for pictures with his now-signature Italian hand gesture celebration with the pinched fingers in the air to signing shoes, body parts, homemade No. 15 shirts, "Godfather"-style posters featuring his face and high school yearbooks from his Don Bosco Prep days.

It was a scene comparable in recent years only to what happened after former Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. made his famous one-handed, finger-tipped catch in 2014 that vaulted him into superstardom.

It concluded an hour after it was scheduled to end, with one individual yelling, "Put it up for the f---ing cutlet king," and a chant of DeVito's name. It was all on full display for the young quarterback's parents, Tom and Lexy, who were in the store also being asked to take pictures and sign autographs, to digest.

"It's unimaginable," said Tom DeVito, a local plumber who services towns near MetLife Stadium. "You can't even wrap your head around it. ... You can't even dream this up, let alone have it.

"I keep asking my friends, 'Am I dead? Are you not telling me that I'm dead?' Because I can't wrap my head around this support, the outpour of love. I've never seen anything like it."

His son has elicited a reaction few Giants players have been able to replicate over the past decade.

"He's a blue-collar kid. He's done it the right way. He's cut his teeth and he doesn't forget where he comes from," said DeVito's agent, Sean Stellato from Stellato Sports. "I think that is part of being a proud Italian, you never forget your roots."

Coach Brian Daboll named DeVito the starter over now-healthy veteran Tyrod Taylor. Daboll explained the decision as the rookie quarterback having "earned it." DeVito has two wins and six touchdown passes to one interception in his three starts and has put himself in position to compete for the backup role next year.

DeVito, whose rookie contract runs through 2024, and his newfound fans are hoping for more, even if general manager Joe Schoen said recently the Giants will have to add another quarterback in the draft or free agency with Daniel Jones recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee and Taylor's contract expiring after this season. Schoen also noted that he expects Jones to be the starter when he returns.

This is where the improbable story stands entering Monday night, when DeVito will make his fourth career start against the Green Bay Packers (8:15 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN). The spotlight will again be on him and the tight-knit family he still lives with in his childhood home.

"I couldn't have predicted it to be like this," DeVito said recently.

WHEN THE GIANTS scored their lone touchdown, a 12-yard pass from DeVito to wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins, in a 10-7 victory over the New England Patriots on Nov. 26, the quarterback was greeted in the end zone by right guard Ben Bredeson and center John Michael Schmitz with the Italian pinched-fingers celebration.

Much like DeVito, it has won over the Giants' locker room.

"We're all doing it," left guard Justin Pugh said.

DeVito started it after a touchdown against the Washington Commanders at the request of assistant athletic trainer Phil Buzzerio.

"I did it and it kind of took off from there," DeVito said.

He has explained it as an ode to the old Italians and his heritage, something he has not shied away from as the attention has grown.

The hand gesture is now commonplace in the locker room, on the field and pretty much everywhere DeVito goes. His family was even shown on camera in slow motion with their pinched fingers in the air after the touchdown against the Patriots.

And then there is the nickname "Tommy Cutlets," which players such as running back Saquon Barkley are using on the sideline. DeVito told ESPN earlier in the season that one of the advantages to living with his parents is he'll have everything he needs, including "chicken cutlets," when he gets home. When asked in the locker room about it this week, Barkley yelled across to DeVito to see if his quarterback approved.

"We bang with it," DeVito said in acceptance of its usage.

It all has added to DeVito's growing legend, which began in New Jersey with a state title as the starting quarterback at powerhouse Don Bosco Prep, then extended to Syracuse University and detoured to the University of Illinois before bringing him back home to New Jersey.

After an ankle injury ruined his junior season, DeVito went undrafted this spring despite a solid final season in which he completed 70% of his passes at Illinois under former Giants assistant Bret Bielema.

It had Stellato standing on tables trying to get the attention of NFL general managers. The Washington Commanders offered the most money to sign as an undrafted free agent. Among the other options were the Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams and Giants. The other local team, the New York Jets, offered DeVito a post-draft tryout.

DeVito chose the Giants in part because of the proximity to his home (it's 10.5 miles from the team's stadium and practice facility) and Daboll's track record with quarterbacks, such as Josh Allen in Buffalo, and Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama. He had to earn his way onto the roster and practice squad this spring and summer, and didn't make his way onto the active roster until October, when Jones and Taylor were sidelined with injuries.

"He played well during training camp, played well in practice leading up to this point and obviously has played well in the games," said Jones, who suffered a season-ending injury to his right ACL on Nov. 5. "So, no, obviously not surprised."

But DeVito's debut against the Jets saw a stat line of minus-1-yard passing. The narrative after that game was the Giants didn't trust him to throw the ball.

Through it all, even when DeVito was a third-stringer behind Jones and Taylor, Daboll held a weekly meeting with DeVito. The Giants were invested in his development.

"We meet every Thursday in the morning before everybody gets here and we go through a variety of different things -- situational stuff, basic offensive terminology, different quarterbacks around the league, different types of tapes that show up whether it's turnover tapes, or big-play tapes, or red zone tapes or decision-making tapes," Daboll said. "Just a way to get to know the quarterback, who's really the third guy. As a head coach, I think that's important."

It has DeVito feeling confident and constantly improving. His 10 completions for 20-plus yards in three starts is more than Jones had in his six starts.

"He's been grinding; hardships and heartaches in college. To see it come together it's Al Dente. It's perfecto. It's bellissima," Stellato said. "We're very blessed. We're fortunate. We know our No. 1 goal is to be a football player and help the New York Giants win football games. That is the No. 1 thing.

"Everything else like this is a great appetizer. It's a great antipasto. It's great for the fans. It's great for the culture."

THE DEVITOS ARE enjoying this ride as much as anyone, even if the future remains uncertain. Tom's business is thriving, and his biggest challenge is everyone wanting to talk about his oldest son, which can be time-consuming.

DeVito's family has been by his side at seemingly every stop, making the trip to Dallas for his first career start. But it was the introduction at DeVito's first home start, in his home state of New Jersey, that was special to the family.

"When I figured it out that he would be announced last I was like, 'Oh please, let him get an ovation.' Because it's kind of like you're on the spot there," Tom said. "And the crowd erupted so loud for him. Then they played the 'Sopranos' theme song. It was just amazing. Just an amazing moment."

Everywhere they go the reaction has been positive, even if at times intrusive. Lexy recalled getting stopped for a picture on the way to the MetLife Stadium restroom.

"We're on cloud nine," she said. "Just to have that love ... look at the line. It's about 800 people here. It's amazing. We pulled in the parking lot and I was crying. He's like, 'Stop. Your makeup.' I know, but it's so much love for my kid, who is just a rookie. He's humble. He loves to play ball. He's a good boy. It just couldn't have happened to someone better."

Now it's about how far DeVito can take it. The Monday night national audience provides a big opportunity. Success over these final five weeks could put him in the picture for a significant role next season with the Giants.

"I've thought about it," DeVito told ESPN. "It's more people saying it than me, like 'You've solidified yourself for a little while in this league.' But [I'm] trying to solidify myself for a long while in this league."

He has earned himself a spot on somebody's roster, likely the Giants', at least for a few years. He'll make $915,000 next year and possibly $1.03 million the following season if he returns.

"He is going to have to prove it again this offseason, but you can certainly go into the offseason thinking that he is competing for a backup job," a pro personnel director with an NFC team suggested.

DeVito is thinking bigger. He grew up dreaming of being an NFL starting quarterback.

"You just got to love the story," Barkley said. "For him, just enjoy it. You're living the dream -- undrafted kid from New Jersey, starting quarterback for the New York Football Giants, and he's balling. And it's going to keep on going if we continue to take care of business."