Devin Haxby may not be the biggest player on the field for the Augustana football team, but he sure is trying to make the biggest impact.
The former Geneseo prep stands just 5-feet, 8-inches tall and weighs 185 pounds. His presence and grit, however, make him a huge part of the Vikings' defense.
In his debut as Augie's boundary safety in last week's 34-32 setback at Cortland, Haxby was second on the team with seven tackles (six solos) and forced a fumble.
Haxby's first work in an expanded role in the back end of the Vikings' defense pleased third-year coach Steve Bell.
"He played fast, he was around the ball when he was supposed to be. Mentally he was there," Bell said of the sophomore standout. "He played the game the way that we want that position to play.
"He made a lot of plays and did them very quickly. Which is nice because that tells me he understands what his role is and understands what his job is on each specific play."
Making plays is what Haxby sets out to do every snap, no matter how much he is giving up physically.
"I don't really think about that," said Haxby of playing bigger than his size. "I know that I just go out on the field and think that I have to play as hard as I can. If I think that I'm smaller than the athletes out there, I'm probably going to get run over and not play as well as I can. I just go out there and play football and do what I can."
The 19-year-old does his best to ingrain that thinking into his psyche, too. Putting as much muscle on his frame also helps him out-play his measurements.
"I've always lifted with the bigger guys, so my weights are always up with theirs," Haxby said. "I'm trying to gain strength and speed, which is a big thing when you're smaller so that it doesn't factor in my size."
Bell never thought Haxby's size would hinder his production.
In fact, Bell was so impressed with the former Maple Leaf last year that he knew he had to get him on the field. Used as a punt returner first (averaging 8.5 yards per return with a long of 29), Haxby slowly worked his way into playing time in the secondary and finished as the team's 11th-leading tackler with 19 stops. He also had three pass break-ups.
"At his position, size has no bearing on anything," Bell said. "Of course, we'd love to have a guy at 6-4 who can do what he can do. He's quick, he's athletic and he's physical. He'll throw all 180 pounds around.”
In his new position, Haxby gets more of a chance to do that, which brings a smile to his face as he can seek contact and make his presence felt.
“It wasn't that much of a transition,'' said Haxby of converting from basically an outside linebacker in a nickel package to covering the middle as a strong safety on every down. “The only difference is that I'm in the high hole a lot and playing the ball. I'm in a lot more run fits, which is my type of football – getting up in the action and getting in on tackles.”
Making his first collegiate start even more impressive was that he did it while nursing a gimpy ankle injured in a preseason scrimmage. That kept him from returning punts, something he hopes to continue doing this fall and will with Bell's blessing.
If there's a way to make his presence felt, Haxby will step up and give it all he has.
Maybe small in stature, Haxby is doing his best to be a big man in the Vikings' football program.