Former Nittany Lion Butler makes leap from NFL to cyber forensics

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As a wide receiver for the Penn State football team from 2004 to 2009 and later for the Seattle Seahawks, Deon Butler is fully aware of the importance of teamwork to the success of any organization. As a recent graduate of the College of Information Science and Technology's (IST) online graduate program, Butler has carried the lessons he learned on the field into his role as a cybersecurity analyst.

“Coach Paterno was really serious about accountability,” he said. “A lot of those things that happen in football and sports carry over into corporate life, it’s just a different arena.”

Butler, a native of Fairfax, Virginia, received a bachelor of science in criminalistics/criminal science from Penn State in 2009 and a master of homeland security in computer information systems security/information assurance through Penn State’s World Campus in 2015. He is currently a window operations tier 2 analyst for Fiserv, a financial services technology company in Atlanta, Georgia. Working mainly on the operations side, he enforces firewall rules and maintains the availability and security of customers’ mobile bank accounts. Prior to working at Fiserv, Butler was an information security analyst intern at the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance in Pittsburgh. He also played in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks and San Diego Chargers from 2009 to 2013.

Butler burst onto the college football landscape in 2004 as a highly productive and reliable receiver, making a school freshman-record nine touchdown catches. He was among the influx of playmakers that helped lift the Nittany Lions to the 2005 Big Ten and FedEx Orange Bowl titles and a 29-9 record over three years. In his senior season, Butler emerged as one of the top receivers in Penn State's history. Having made at least one reception in 36 of 38 career games, he is perched in the top 5 on the school career receptions, receiving yardage and touchdown charts.

A fan of reality-based crime shows such as the “CSI” franchise, Butler said he always had an interest in criminal forensics and took classes in digital forensics as an undergraduate. After a player’s third year in the NFL, Butler said, the league pays for higher education, and he found himself once again bitten by the forensics bug. At that time, cybercrime incidents such as the Target security breach were in the news, and Butler saw a promising opportunity in the cybersecurity field.

“It kind of reminded me of those digital forensics classes," he said, "and I thought, ‘That would be kind of sweet if you could get into that.'"

Butler said that he benefited greatly from the hands-on nature of Penn State's World Campus program, which allowed him to gain a significant amount of experience and expertise. Since he didn’t come into the program with much experience from his undergraduate education, he said, the World Campus program gave him the skills and confidence to ace job interviews.

“The program taught me a lot and gave me a lot of information to talk in interviews and relate to situations interviewers were asking about,” Butler said.

Butler, who aspires to climb the ladder in his current profession, said he is constantly challenged by the dynamic nature of the information security field, particularly "how computers work and how people craft up viruses.”

“It’s pretty amazing when you really think about it,” he said.

Last Updated June 09, 2016