UC Davis football coach Dan Hawkins went down to the farm Tuesday and reintroduced himself. And whew! Where has this guy been? And what took him so long?
During a lengthy meet-and-greet session inside Aggie Stadium, the former UCD fullback laughed, cried, charmed. His booming personality almost blew open the barn doors. He entertained for so long, pounded the podium with such force, one half-expected him to retrieve a Bible from his backpack.
Instead, he dramatically produced a UCD letterman’s jersey and jacket, pulled them over his suit, then tugged a baseball cap on his head.
It was goofy and corny, and raw and revealing, but his message was delivered. Khaki pants and linen shirts are out. Looser days and trick plays are in.
Those of us who know him know that he’s honest, straightforward, transparent. He is everything you want in a leader.
Bob Biggs, former Aggies football coach and a member of the school’s search committee, on new coach Dan Hawkins
Hawkins, who accepted the job only four days after his initial conversation with athletic director Kevin Blue – and UCD athletics almost never moves this quickly – huffs and puffs and swears he can revive the Big Sky Conference program, and he cites his eclectic portfolio as proof.
Between his enormous success at Boise State and his nasty fall at Colorado, the Northern California native has climbed Mount Everest, walked across France and Spain, taken his daughter skydiving, coached in Austria and Canada and worn an analyst’s headset at ESPN.
He is unlike any football coach you will ever meet. Quirky, funny, creative, wacky, different. Those were his words. And this was his show. Think of former NFL coach/analyst Jerry Glanville without the black hat and black clothes and more, um, intellectual inclinations.
“Some people would look at Dan and say, ‘Is it bluster? Is it animated?’ ” said former Aggies coach Bob Biggs, a member of the search committee. “No, it’s not. Some people are laid-back. Other people wear their emotions on their sleeves. I think Dan just happens to be one of those folks, and you have to accept that. Those of us who know him know that he’s honest, straightforward, transparent. He is everything you want in a leader.”
31 Boise State’s winning streak under former coach Dan Hawkins
In a conference room overflowing with UCD administrators, coaches, former coaches and players, the excitement and affection for Hawkins was palpable. Biggs, an assistant when Hawkins was enrolled at Davis, just kept smiling. Blue, who negotiated the contract with his new coach, noted the brevity of the search. Former Aggies coach Bob Foster, who was anticipating a grueling drive back to his home near the Oregon border, recalled recruiting the one-time fullback out of Big Valley High School (approximately 140 students) in tiny Bieber (population under 500).
“Very solid,” Foster said, “but a wonderful person. He was here when we played for the (Division II) national championship in 1982. When I addressed the team even before Dan got the job, I told them, ‘You’re going to love him. This is the way he is.’ He was a great team guy … .”
Foster paused, then added, “I’m sorry. I’m going to start crying.”
And he did. As the morning progressed, there weren’t enough tissues to go around. Hawkins choked up during his opening remarks, and later spoke candidly about his unconventional style and a head-coaching career that began at Christian Brothers High School and spanned the college and professional levels.
He coaxed a female soccer player into kicking field goals during his years at Willamette, has attempted more tactical gimmicks than he can count, and forged a national reputation with his prolific offense at Boise State. During his five seasons (2001-05) with the Broncos, his teams appeared in four bowl games and enjoyed a 31-game winning streak. They led the nation in scoring (45.6 points) and total offense (501.5 yards) in 2002, earning Hawkins the first of his two Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year awards.
A native Californian who oddly speaks with a slight Texas accent – “fur shur” is for sure – Hawkins also coached at College of the Siskiyous (1988-91) and Sonoma State (1992) and took over a struggling Colorado Buffaloes program in 2006.
His experiences in Boulder left plenty of emotional bruises. He refers to those five seasons as the “dark years” and suggests his personality and philosophy were a bad mix from the start. Yes, he would do some things differently. But no, he is not changing.
His more immediate challenge is to heavily recruit the region (which he did at Colorado), put a jolt into the offense, kick-start the program’s marketing and fundraising, and in the near future lead the Aggies back to relevance. That’s the plan, anyway, and whether Davis is ready or not, he’s back.