Eric DeCosta ’93 entered Colby with a strong résumé as a running back from eastern Massachusetts. He left after four years as a solid Division III linebacker. But DeCosta also came away from Colby with a strong interest in Greek literature—thanks to his degree in English and classic civilization—and a sense that he could succeed in whatever field he entered.
“Colby taught me confidence,” said DeCosta, now director of player personnel for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League. “The toughest thing I ever have ever done was daily going to class at Colby and being around smart kids and brilliant professors. That was a challenge to me.
“I learned to think on my feet, with public-speaking classes and being in pressure situations. They prepared me for what I wanted to do in life. Colby prepared me to do anything. Given the opportunity, I felt I would be successful.”
That confidence was built on the football field as well.
Colby Football Coach Ed Mestieri remembers DeCosta as an under-sized but determined linebacker, a very bright player who quickly absorbed the team playbook and strategies. “He had an intuitive ability for the game that has no bounds to size and speed,” Mestieri said. “He was tough. He was really tough.”
Early on DeCosta confided that he wanted to work in the NFL, his coach recalled. “I had time to sit him down and explained the work ethic that was required and the time commitment that was required. You work until the job is done. I really laid it out for him. He helped out in the office after his senior year, anything he could do.”
“I felt if someone would bring me in, I could make an impact and show what I could do,” said DeCosta. “The biggest challenge was getting [into the NFL]. Colby is not a football institution. It is not Oklahoma. I did not play in the NFL. I did not play Division I. I felt I had to get some NFL experience on my résumé.”
Mestieri played at Springfield College under then-assistant coach Charley Casserly, who went on to become general manager of the Washington Redskins. Thanks to Mestieri and the Colby staff, DeCosta garnered a graduate fellowship at Trinity College and parlayed that to an internship with the Redskins in 1995. It was his foot in the door.
“He was a hard-working guy with a lot of enthusiasm,” Casserly said of DeCosta. “He was intense about getting his work done. All of the things you see now, you saw the potential back then. He has done a terrific job [in Baltimore]. He has had a hand in their success.”
If Casserly were hiring a general manager, he would consider DeCosta “the number-one candidate.”
DeCosta landed his first full-time job in the NFL with the Ravens in 1996 in the scouting department. After leading the team’s scouting department for six years, he was promoted to director of player personnel in January 2009. He’s been with the Ravens for 13 years, a long time by NFL standards. And he’s happily settled into his life outside of football, at home in Baltimore County with his wife, Lacie, a former All-America lacrosse player at Randolph-Macon College, and their son and daughter.
But his NFL goals do not stop here.
“I do want to be a general manager,” said DeCosta, who still scouts at least one college game during fall weekends and sometimes two per week. “I am not in a rush to be a general manager. I want to make sure that when I get the opportunity I’m ready to succeed. Some guys have so much ambition they will take a job before they are ready, and they fail. Just because you are a good scout doesn’t mean you will be a good general manager.”
DeCosta is not the only Colby graduate in the front office of the Ravens. Mark Azevedo ’04, a former tight end with a degree in American studies and a minor in administrative science, spent his fifth season with the Ravens in 2009 as a pro scout. He won the Paul “Ginger” Frazier award after his senior year at Colby. Azevedo said Colby was an ideal place for him to learn about the game.
Said Mestieri of Colby, “This is the kind of place where you may not play in the NFL, but you may go to work there.”
David Driver has covered college and pro sports for 20 years and is the former sports editor of the daily Baltimore Examiner. He can be reached through his Web site at www.davidsdriver.com.