Bob Diaco was in an airport in Chicago on his way home when he got the call. “Would you consider being re-routed to Lincoln?” Diaco said yes. With only jeans, a sweatshirt and the clothes he had just worn to another interview, Diaco made his way to Lincoln, Nebraska, to meet with Nebraska and Coach Mike Riley.
“I said I was not dressed. I had one set of clothes,” Diaco said. “They said, ‘We don’t care. Come on out. We want to talk football.’ I said great, but I felt bad so I actually changed in the bathroom of the Lincoln airport into my suit that I had on the afternoon before.”
As a result of Diaco’s whirlwind hire, he has yet to really watch much tape on Nebraska’s personnel. He’s OK with that though. He trusts what Nebraska has to offer.
“There’s not going to be a moment where we get the group together and it’s like, ‘Whoa.,’ Diaco said. ‘Because I don’t believe in that and our system has a lot of flexibility. We can piece and put guys where their physical traits fit best. The image you have of 3-4 and the front 2-gapping is not the system I have created.
“There’s a lot of flexibility. The Nebraska defensive personnel is going to be just fine to become a great defense.”
While Diaco finds flexibility in the defense he’ll bring to Nebraska, he also admits he’s very detail oriented. Part of that includes lessons he likes to use and teach to his players. One includes a scorpion and a frog.
“The scorpion and the frog fable is an important lesson to understand,” Diaco said. “Just the nature of your behaviors and the profile that you create, we’re going to have to believe. I’m not going to say, ‘Get on my back. I’m going to swim you across the lake” to the scorpion because halfway across, you get stung.
“So when you look at the body of work, someone who has a body of work that lacks accountability or responsibility, to think that you’re going to count on that person on third down or in the red zone, it’s just not going to happen and that’s where the scorpion and the frog story comes from.”
He also has another favorite lesson, which includes the use of Pavlov’s dogs.
“That’s an easy one and that’s me, right?” Diaco said. “Ring the dinner bell, put dinner out, eat dinner. Ring the dinner bell, put dinner out, eat dinner. Ring the dinner bell, put dinner out, eat dinner. Ring the dinner bell and I’m salivating. You do things in repetition over and over again and it becomes habit. It becomes a way of life. I’m talking about a way of life defending, you don’t play on the defense. You’re a defender. A defender is not something that is turned on or off. When you are doing this the right way, you become a defender 24 hours a day, seven days a week and you’re going to become a defender the rest of your life. You’re going to defend your family, you’re going defend your community and you’re going to defend the mission of the organization that you serve.
“That never shuts off and that culture, that mentality and that ideology is very important that we embed into the defensive players’ DNA.”
Now that Diaco is at Nebraska, he plans to bring those lessons and ideas to the Husker defense. While he was clear the defense is not his but actually Nebraska’s, he still wants to leave his mark on something he genuinely enjoys.
“I felt very good about wanting to [coach defense again],” Diaco said. “I was so excited to get back to some of the work I absolutely love to do.”
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.