Billy Devaney, Nebraska’s new executive director of player personnel and a former NFL general manager, has a certain efficiency and confidence about him. Perhaps that comes from dealing with two sides of the football business — the players and the owners — that often couldn’t be more different. It’s a tough line to walk, and Devaney seems to have a talent, just in a brief impression, for walking it.
Devaney is also excited about coming to Nebraska. He arrived in Lincoln on Monday. He drove out from Atlanta — where he was working with the Falcons — on Friday.
“I can’t believe I didn’t get a speeding ticket on my way out. I was so excited,” Devaney said to the press Wednesday.
Devaney said his new job at Nebraska is a “phenomenal opportunity.” He described his role as “kind of like a Swiss Army knife.”
“I’ll be involved in a bunch of different areas — personnel side and evaluations side,” Devaney said. “I’ll help in any off-the-field projects that Mike has, and that’s fun. There’s a newness to that.”
Devaney has spent more than 30 years at various levels of the NFL, but in the middle of last season, Riley told Devaney NU was creating a position and asked for recommendations.
Devaney spent a weekend in August with Riley and his staff — he was scouting with the Falcons at the time and scheduled it so he could spend an unhurried period in Lincoln — and found himself impressed enough with NU that he called his family and praised it.
“When Mike started talking about this position, I said, ‘All right, let me think about it,’ and the more I thought, ‘The NFL is awesome, but man, that place (Nebraska)’ ...” Devaney said. “The fact that Mike’s here and those coaches and Nebraska, I thought, why the heck wouldn’t I be interested in that?”
Devaney has a famous name, although he and Nebraska football coaching legend Bob Devaney aren’t related. The two Devaneys actually chatted once when Billy was coming through Nebraska on a scouting trip and Devaney was Nebraska’s athletic director.
“I was in there about an hour, and we were talking about old players,” Devaney said. “It was phenomenal ... I was in awe. He was really, really a neat guy.”
Devaney said Nebraska’s current personnel evaluators are “outstanding,” so he’s not here to make major changes without first understanding the culture.
“You’re looking at traits — toughness, athletic ability, and all that kind of stuff,” Devaney said. “I say this serious: Anything I can pass along from 32 years on the road to help these guys, that’s going to be a big part of the job. That’ll be neat.”
Evaluating high school players, Devaney said, is tougher than evaluating college players. He’ll evaluate players on the roster and high school prospects. He watched a lot of film with Riley already, and noted Nos. 24, 91 and the right tackle. That’s Aaron Williams, Freedom Akinmoladun and Nick Gates.
Devaney doesn’t have all the names down yet.