Bob Biggs admits it. The emotion gets to him every now and then, and the longtime UC Davis football coach tends to get a little choked up.
But that's all right. It's always been his ability to be completely open with his players and coaches that has made him a successful coach and mentor of young men.
So it was only natural that Biggs became emotional when he announced late last November that he would retire following the 2012 season. It will be his 20th season as head coach, 35th in the program, including his years as an assistant under Jim Sochor and Bob Foster.
The tally rises to 38 when you include his years as a quarterback at UC Davis, where he was named a first-team Little All-American by the Associated Press and later earned induction into the Cal Aggie Athletics Hall of Fame.
He was the Aggies' first 2,000-yard passer, and he once threw 59 passes in a playoff game, something unheard of during that era.
So please allow the coach an emotional, nostalgic trip every once in a while.
He's earned it.
"I think coach Biggs' demeanor is the same," senior defensive end Bobby Erskine said. "But he is getting a little more emotional. Occasionally, he'll get choked up, especially when he says something like 'Aggies Pride.' "
The seniors, Erskine said, are proud they are going out with Biggs. It provides extra motivation to better last season's 4-7 record.
"We want to send him out on a winning note," Erskine said.
It's that type of loyalty from his players past and present that Biggs said will be the toughest to deal with as he pulls away from the team.
"Yeah, I got emotional," said Biggs, who never worried about projecting the stereotypical, gruff persona of a football coach. "When I brought the team together to tell them I was retiring and I mentioned 'Aggie Pride,' I did, and I still do, get choked up. I told them I hope they are all so fortunate to care about something so much as I do about this program."
With retirement in the distance, Biggs said he's enjoying his final summer of practices, and he is focused on the team and season ahead. After the season, he'll stay on at UC Davis through the academic year, and he and his wife, Diane, who runs the sleep lab at Woodland Memorial Hospital, will retire at the same time.
There will be some trips, but the thought of having an open schedule excites Biggs. His eyes light up when talking of leisurely drives up and down the coast with his wife, of not having to worry about budgets and compliance issues, of not having to compete for high school and community college recruits now that his program offers scholarships.
"The transition into a scholarship program has greatly increased the time and energy it takes to be head coach," Biggs said. "We realized we needed better coaching, a full-time staff. The differences were night and day. We have a 97-man roster with redshirts. When I started, we still had a freshman squad and used them like a feeder program. Not anymore."
Biggs surrendered his role as the team's offensive coordinator the same year UC Davis jumped from Division II to the Football Championship Subdivision level. He still has input on game plans and still watches film, but the days of staying awake into the wee hours of the morning ended years ago, Biggs said. He now spends more time looking out for every aspect of the football program.
"I stepped back and moved into the head coaching role when we made the jump," Biggs said. "I had to. The compliance issues, the fundraising, the day-to-day operations it all changed immensely. That was hard because doing things like designing plays were the things I loved the most."
He's quick to rebut any thoughts the job got to be too much for him, that he was reaching the wick's end of his coaching candle. He said his coaching goals have largely been reached. He wanted the program to rise above Division II, and this season will be the first the Aggies play in the competitive Big Sky Conference.
Biggs wanted the program to play games in a first-rate stadium. Aggie Stadium, which opened in 2007, is a beautiful facility and certainly makes the recruiting efforts easier than it would have been had the Aggies still played at Toomey Field.
Biggs could have kept retirement on hold to try and become the Aggies' all-time winningest coach. Sochor is 156-41-5. Biggs is 140-78-1. But he's not chasing his mentor or the record books, he said.
"I never envisioned coaching into my 70s," said Biggs, 61. "Those guys that tend to hang on too long, you have to question if they are effective or just a figurehead. I didn't want to be that guy."
Biggs said he expects to have some input in the search for his replacement. He wants to make sure the transition is smooth and would like the process to start as soon as possible so there is no void, no questions by future recruits about the direction and leadership of the program.
"The next (head coach) will have to respect the student-athlete model here at Davis. It's a true model," Biggs said. "It will be very challenging to find the right fit. But when and where I can help, I will, and I'll sit down with those making the ultimate decision and offer my perspective."
One likely candidate to replace Biggs is Mike Moroski, the Aggies' offensive coordinator. Moroski, who has been with the program as an assistant since 1987, played quarterback for the Aggies.
"Oh, yeah," Moroski said with emphasis when asked if he will apply for the position. "I'm a Davis guy, and there should be that Davis philosophy in whoever gets hired."
There has been a long history of institutional hires at UC Davis, from Sochor's hire in 1970, when he was an assistant, to Bob Foster's promotion from Aggies assistant to head coach in 1989, to Biggs' first season in 1993.
But new athletic director Terry Tumey comes from outside the university and could go outside the Aggie family.
With the step up to the Big Sky, does Tumey believe he must land a big fish?
"Where a candidate comes from is not the question," said Tumey, a former director of operations for the 49ers and most recently the director of athletics at San Rafael's Dominican University. "That person may be right under our noses or he may come from a nationwide search. I don't really have a preference. But everyone will be evaluated on the same bandwidth."
Tumey started the job Aug. 1, and he'll have his hands full finding Biggs' replacement. Biggs has his hands full preparing the Aggies' for their Aug. 30 opener against Azusa Pacific and later Big Sky powers in Eastern Washington and Montana State. Then there's always the Causeway Classic against Sacramento State. Biggs is 15-4 as head coach in the annual showdown between the nearby rivals.
Biggs said he remembers Sac State head coach Marshall Sperbeck running around football fields as a kid. He recruited current Portland State head coach Nigel Burton when Burton played at Jesuit High School.
"Man, I'm getting old," Biggs said with almost a whisper.
The memories, like tears, can be hard to stop at times.
Biggs surveyed the field after one hot Saturday morning practice at Aggie Stadium. Players trickled off Jim Sochor Field and toward the locker room. Equipment managers gathered footballs and packed the music system away that an hour earlier was booming old-school Jay-Z.
Biggs is not stuck in 1960s-era music. He's been known to request Metallica songs for certain intense practices. The moisture on his face was sweat mixed with sunblock that's helped keep the coach looking far younger than his age.
There are no tears this morning, only a look of satisfaction on Biggs' face. When he steps away after the 11-game season, he'll be proud of what he's accomplished.
"I feel very good about the state of the program," he said. "I want to turn it over and have the next guy say, 'Thank you, coach. You've given me the tools to be successful.' "