CU football coach makes stop in Glenwood |

CU football coach makes stop in Glenwood

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” As a class from St. Stephen’s Catholic School approached the Sayre Park bench Dan Hawkins called home for an hour or so on Wednesday, the University of Colorado head football coach spotted a boy scout in the fray.

Ever quick on his heels, the charismatic face of Buffalo football wasted no time flashing the scout salute.

“Boy scouts!,” Hawkins shouted. “I was a Webelos!”

Needless to say, it didn’t take the coach long to win over the crowd of youngsters, who surely became CU fans on Wednesday if they weren’t already.

“Nice!” he said after the kids’ teacher identified her class. “Catholic school boys. That’s what I’m talking about.”

He then shook each student’s hand before breaking out a Sharpie for autographs.

One boy asked if the coach would sign his arm.

That didn’t happen, as Hawkins instead opted to ink up items from a stack of promotional paraphernalia lugged along by the school’s sports information department.

The coach, who’ll begin his third season as the Buffs’ coach in the fall, was visiting Glenwood Springs alongside CU head ski coach Richard Rokos as part of the “Hawk Talk Tour,” an inaugural series of stops throughout Colorado aimed to augment CU’s presence in the state. (Other stops included Steamboat Springs, Pueblo, Fort Morgan, Iliff, Sterling, Berthoud and Denver.)

“It’s something we used to do to reach out to the community,” Rokos said of the tour. “Coach Hawkins realized that it’s important to meet people, talk with people face to face. There’s no substitute for that, even in this age of computers and websites. It’s very important.”

The public meet and greet at Sayre Park that saw upwards of 30 people ” from Buff sports fans to a few alumni to young football players wanting to talk to a real, live Division I football coach ” shuffle through and talk sports with the coaches.

“I think it helps people relate with CU,” said Coal Ridge high school student Evan Wagstrom as he waited for his turn to meet Hawkins. “If you have the coach visiting over here, it’ll get them a lot more fans.”

The lunchtime stop at Sayre Park marked only the start of the coaches’ day in Glenwood.

Hawkins and Rokos were then ushered off to Glenwood Springs Middle School, where they addressed a select bunch of students with aspirations of becoming first-generation college graduates.

Given his upbringing in a rural town in northern California, it’s no wonder Hawkins wished to address such a group.

“I grew up in a very small town and went to a very small school,” he said. “My parents had never gone to college. I went on one vacation as a kid, to San Francisco one time. That’s it. There was one doctor that came to my town once a week. The only people I had ever been around who had been to college were my teachers.”

Despite those humble roots, Hawkins went on to play football at, and secure a degree from the University of California-Davis. That spawned an illustrious coaching career that began at the high school level and is currently prospering at CU.

He was lucky enough to have people believe in him, so now Hawkins is paying forward just that ” and promoting Buffalo football in the process.

“I always had these dreams and these goals and these visions about what was out there that was possible,” Hawkins explained. “I was very fortunate that I had a lot of people that reinforced that. Really, what I’ve tried to do for the kids is teach them how to get out of that box. There are a lot of self-limiting beliefs.

“When you get around in the world and you see people that have done awesome things, they’re just like you and me. They’re not supermen. They make mistakes. They fail. But they have a vision for where they’re going.”

Given the message ” more or less that ordinary people are capable of doing extraordinary things ” it’s fitting that Rokos, who defected from a landscape of political unrest in Czechoslovakia almost 30 years ago, was Hawkins’ co-messenger.

Rokos went on to piece together the quintessential American dream, eventually landing CU’s head coaching gig in 1990. He’s guided Buffalo ski teams to five national titles during his tenure.

“Richard had to escape from Czechoslovakia,” Hawkins noted. “He spent a year in a refugee camp and came to America. That guy is the most optimistic, positive person. There’s probably nobody here that has had it as bad as that guy, and look what he did.”

And, if their message strikes a chord with only one child on the entire tour, it’ll all have been worthwhile in Hawkins’ eyes.

“Even if you could just talk to one kid and one kid remembers what you said, it’s worth it,” he said. “I’m just trying to get kids thinking a little bit differently and see the world a little bit differently.”

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