New football coach Dan Hawkins is getting everyone pumped up for the new season. Not just his players, but also students, staff, faculty, alums, the community — and Gunrock, of course!
Hawkins played here in 1981 and ’82, and he remembers the spirit and excitement that permeated the campus during football season. He wants to see it again, and he’s been working hard at it since his first day back on campus — when he handed out blue books in front of Shields Library and greeted other students in the Coffee House.
Dateline UC Davis sat down with the new coach for a Q&A about “coming home,” his favorite places on campus and his goal of bringing UC Davis football to prominence again.
What’s your impression of Davis and UC Davis now compared to when you were a student?
“UC Davis is a great school. Davis itself is a great place to live, then and now. We had a good football program back then and the potential to have one now.”
How strong of a pull was it to “come home” and coach at your alma mater?
“I have always wanted to coach to make a difference, and coming here has been really gratifying. To be able to give back to a place that gave a lot to me. My values are of great academics, great athletics and great people, all coming together. Coming back here has been awesome.”
What is the one thing you missed the most about Davis?
“I would say the people. As a player, being around so many outstanding people every single day, people that have gone on to do some unbelievable things. There is a level of excellence here that is really enriching.”
What was your favorite spot on campus, as a student?
“As a student, one place that I spent an awful lot of time was Hickey Gym.”
Where’s your favorite lunch spot on campus, today?
“I go to the Coffee House a lot. As for lunch, it’s often a bagel with peanut butter at the stadium post-practice.”
What is your first priority in terms of returning UC Davis to the prominence it once enjoyed?
“It all starts in recruiting — recruiting great people, great players. It all starts with the players. If I have a priority, it is always in recruiting. Everything we do — it doesn’t matter if it's coaching, practicing, lifting, administrating — we want to up our game.”
What are three things you expect for the coming football season?
“I expect us to be exciting. I expect for all the alums to come back and get involved with the program. And I expect us to get this thing back on a championship trajectory.”
You’ve worked with Blitz the Bearcat at Willamette, Buster Bronco at Boise State and Ralphie the Buffalo at Colorado — and now you're back here with Gunrock. Who's the toughest?
“First of all, there ain’t no one tougher than Ralphie. Ralphie takes the cake in that one. I mean, if you've stood in the way of a 1,200-pound buffalo, you'll know what I’m talking about. But I told Gunrock at one of the basketball games that I don’t want to see him getting beat in any of these mascot competitions they have. He needs to up his game, too. I want to see him on Harleys, thunder-dunking, constant energy. He can’t get out-Harleyed, out-skidded or out-creatived!”