Math, physics, French, football: Dewitt’s varied background a boon for Huskers assistant

March 23, 2018 GMT

Boring guy, Jovan Dewitt.

Played Division II football. Played Arena League football (Iowa Barnstormers, Orlando Predators, Fargo Freeze, if you were curious).

Degrees in physics and mathematics. Coaching stops all over the map, at every level of the game. Turned down a job at NASA to coach football. Yes, that NASA.

We still haven’t gotten to the part about how he learned to speak fluent French before he was old enough to drive a car.

Today though, Dewitt is a football coach. With 18 years of skin in the game, the new outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at Nebraska hasn’t lost his passion for teaching players.

“My favorite time of the year, bar none, forget about anything else, is the dead period during spring ball. Absolute favorite time,” Dewitt said recently. “There’s no game planning, per say — you’re just purely out there coaching football. That’s my absolute favorite time of the year.”

On a staff full of intriguing characters, Dewitt’s expansive interests help him stand out. Physics and math have made him a better football coach, he says. So has his path to Lincoln. He’s dug irrigation lines on the practice field at Fort Scott. He’s shoveled snow off the field at Northern Michigan. He’s worked in some of the finest facilities in the nation at Northern Iowa and Nebraska.

They’ve all shaped his coaching philosophy. For an avid learner, there has been no better path to power conference football. Whether learning leadership techniques at Army to learning how to relate to a melting pot of personalities and cultures at Florida Atlantic, Dewitt has tried his best to absorb knowledge no matter the situation.

“Every place I go or I’ve been, I’ve tried to pick up some solution to some problem. Because I learned over the course of time that there’s going to be a situation that arose over here that’s going to apply somewhere else,” Dewitt said. “There’s just so many things you can pick up from all different parts of the country, I really enjoy that part of it. I really, really do.”

Dewitt has a way of drawing you into a conversation. Get him going on the right topic — and there are plenty of right topics — and it’s easy to become caught up in the 42-year-old’s passion for life both inside and outside of football.

“For me, it’s all about structure. Physics, you’re talking about structure of this, structure of that, gravity, different angles that you have to work with — the structure of the problem you’re trying to solve,” Dewitt said. “To me, football is the same thing. We’re all talking about the structure of defense. So we’re just interchanging parts.”

The ability to interchange parts has helped Dewitt in his involvement with special teams his entire career. He first began coordinating that unit at Army in 2014. When Frost hired him at Central Florida in 2016, he had a simple message.

“He say, ‘Hey, you’re going to do that again,’” Dewitt said. “And it’s just continued on.”

Dewitt also has the perspective of working as both a position coach and a defensive coordinator. He ran defenses at Northern Michigan; St. Norbert College, a Division III school in Wisconsin; and Northern Iowa. He’s been a position coach at Central Florida, Army, Florida Atlantic, Fairmont State and Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College.

“Understanding how your piece fits into everybody else’s puzzle. I think that’s the thing I’ve been able to garner throughout my career, whether it was coaching junior college, Division III, Division II, I-AA or I-A, or interning with the Packers, is it gives you a bigger and broader perspective on what it takes programwide or defensewide,” Dewitt said. “So as I work backwards to being a position coach as opposed to a coordinator, I get a better idea of how my piece can help generate the bigger puzzle and not just worry about what my piece is doing.”