"It's kind of like being a superhero," said Ryan, a senior psychology major who has been DIBS — short for Demon in a Blue Suit — for almost three years.
DePaul prohibits revealing the identity of the students who serve as DIBS, the blue-and-red creature who appears at Blue Demons athletic and promotional events. Ryan said only his parents, girlfriend and a few of his former roommates know he's one of three DePaul students currently donning DIBS' costume.
"I do like the privacy," Ryan said. "When I'm actually performing, it's really nice because it allows me to be more creative and open and forthcoming with interactions I have with people because nobody knows who I am."
To keep his identity protected, Ryan travels to home games on campus or at Allstate Arena in Rosemont hours before fans arrive. He'll change into DIBS either in a special locker room, or, when at Allstate, in one of the stadium's suites.
"After games, DIBS will go into the room and disappear," Ryan said. "I will change and make sure everybody is gone, and then I'll reemerge in my street clothes."
Ryan said the costume is washed before every game, and he notices a 20-degree temperature difference when wearing DIBS gear.
Ryan tried out for the gig three years ago after seeing a poster on campus advertising the position. The job interview, in front of a student playing DIBS and a DePaul marketing official, consisted of him wearing only the mascot's head and pretending he was in a variety of situations, like leading the Blue Demons out of the locker room.
Since earning the job, for which he gets paid a "small hourly rate," Ryan has appeared as DIBS at Blue Demons men's and women's basketball, men's and women's soccer, women's volleyball and softball tilts. He also shows up at DePaul orientation events, plus "mascot days" for the White Sox and Chicago Fire.
Wherever he goes, Ryan said DIBS, which has a Facebook and Twitter page, must at all times stay positive. And he said that hasn't been a problem, even for the men's basketball program, which has struggled and won only a handful of Big East games in Ryan's tenure at DePaul.
"I have fun no matter what the outcome of the game is," said Ryan, who will be DIBS during Saturday's men's hoops team's home game against Providence. "My job is to be excited no matter what.
"It can be difficult to get people excited when the game is looking grim … but I don’t think it’s difficult to show that in DIBS himself."
After graduating in June, Ryan may tell others he was a mascot. He might even put the accomplishment on his resume.
For now, his secret remains safe.
"When I put that costume on, I definitely switch gears," he said.