Swiss army knife Devaney excited to join NU's staff
Usually when an NFL scout visits a college campus, it's a quick, all-business stop. The scout typically watches some film, spends a little time at practice, talks with the coaches and gets out of Dodge.
But Billy Devaney, then a scout for the Atlanta Falcons, spent a weekend in Lincoln with Mike Riley last August and got a better feel for the campus, tradition and coaching staff in place. He remembers calling his family from the airport as he left and telling them, "This place is unbelievable."
“The more I thought about it, I thought, ‘The NFL is awesome, but man, that place with Mike here, and these coaches and the fact that it’s Nebraska… why the heck wouldn’t I be interested in that?’” Devaney said.
Devaney will get the full Nebraska experience after being hired last week as the team's Executive Director of Player Personnel, a new position that athletic director Sean Eichorst and his assistant Steve Waterfield came up with during last season. They brought it to Riley, who was very receptive.
“The birth of it was their idea – a veteran football person that focuses on evaluation and recruiting of athletes," Riley said. "But he could also be a help to me in any part of the football world.
“I’ve always thought the more heads that are involved in something and really, truly studying it, you’ve got a better chance of coming up with a better idea. We talked about it for a long time before we actually put the idea of a job in motion."
Devaney fit the mold perfectly. He has more than three decades of experience working in NFL front offices, including a four-year stint as the general manager of the St. Louis Rams. His bevy of experiences allow him to play a "Swiss army knife" type of role.
“I’m going to be involved in a bunch of different areas on the personnel side, the evaluation side, helping any kind of coaching off the field," Devaney said. "That’s fun. There’s a newness to that. It’s not like every day you’re going to be walking in and doing the same thing. Just in the few days I’ve been here, I’m convinced it’s a great opportunity.”
For instance, Riley was very disappointed in how Nebraska performed in games that kicked off at 11 a.m. last season. The coach is eager to pick Devaney's mind on how the Huskers could better prepare for the early start during the week and the morning of the game.
Likely the largest portion of Devaney's role will involve evaluating players, both those already on the team and ones on the recruiting trail. Devaney admits that it will take some time for him to adjust to grading high-school prospects, but he's confident the transition will be a smooth one.
“The projection is just that much tougher," he said. "When you’re looking at a senior that’s played four years of college, it’s a lot easier to project than looking at a junior in high school and trying to project four years down the road. But we’ll get it and these guys are great at what they do. I’ll learn a lot from them and they’ll be a big help to me.”
Devaney's role will become more set in stone as he becomes more ingrained in the program, but it's clear that Riley believes he's an important addition.
And Devaney, despite having nearly all his experience come at the NFL level, is ecstatic about the chance to transition to Nebraska.
“I don’t know how I didn’t get speeding tickets the whole way here, I was so excited. Since I’ve been here, the excitement has only gotten that much stronger. This is a phenomenal opportunity for me and I’m really thankful to be here.”