Dan Hawkins peered into the audience and saw an old friend.
“Get up here right now!” Hawkins ordered, and up walked Sam Young, now defensive coordinator for Modesto Junior College. Go figure: Hawkins interrupted his introductory news conference as new head coach at UC Davis, all to reconnect with an old coaching buddy from early in his career.
“If I could find the one guy in America that knew the most about football, it’s that guy (Young),” Hawkins exclaimed. “My man Sam Young. Singin’ Sammy.”
The episode earlier this week became a reunion of sorts. In the early 1980s, Hawkins and Young were young coaches at UC Davis under Jim Sochor – Hawkins coaching the linebackers and Young the secondary.
Their careers took different courses, but they might reunite. Young, the winningest head coach in MJC history (93-67 from 2000-14) and a member of the staff for over two decades, might return to Davis as a member of Hawkins’ staff.
Young, a day after Hawkins’ news conference, met informally with Hawkins on Wednesday in Davis during a fund-raiser. No offer is on the table for now, but Young confirmed that he’s interested in the opportunity.
1990 Sam Young’s first football season at MJC
Hawkins reportedly has tabbed Young as a potential consultant on both offense and defense.
“It’s still up in the air. I’m not sure what I want to do,” Young said Thursday. “He (Hawkins) is in the process of putting his staff together. It’s a fluid situation.”
Young, 61, retired from MJC two years ago following his resignation as head coach. He remained on the staff under Rusty Stivers, however, as outside linebackers coach in 2015 and defensive coordinator for the Pirates’ Valley Conference championship team this season.
“I think it’s 50-50 (on whether Young goes to Davis),” Stivers said. “I know he had so much fun this year coaching the defense. Sam is a walking encyclopedia of football. He’s coached everything in the game.”
A return to Davis would complete Young’s coaching circle. The Porterville native never played football for the Aggies – he graduated in 1978 – but he talked his way onto the freshman coaching staff under Mike Bellotti.
“I was a glorified student manager. It was an apprenticeship,” Young remembered. “They let me in the room and I was taking notes. If it was a movie, nobody would believe it.”
That began Young’s membership in Davis’ famed coaching tree. He eventually served on a staff that included Bellotti (later the head coach at Oregon), TCU coach Gary Patterson, Bob Foster and future MJC coach Steve Da Prato. Chris Petersen, the current head coach at Washington, set records as the Davis quarterback during the late 1980s. Young eventually followed Da Prato to MJC in 1990 and succeeded him as head coach in 2000.
Meanwhile, Hawkins – a former fullback for Sochor’s Aggies (1981-82) – launched his coaching career on the Davis campus. From there, he became the head coach at Christian Brothers, Siskiyous and NAIA Willamette. He eventually moved to Boise State and put the Broncos on the national map by going 53-11 with from 2001-05.
It’s still up in the air. I’m not sure what I want to do. He (new UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins) is in the process of putting his staff together. It’s a fluid situation.
Hawkins was not successful during a term at Colorado (19-39 from 2006-10). In recent seasons, he has served as a studio analyst at ESPN and – last summer – coached the Vienna Vikings, a club team in Vienna, Austria.
Young and Hawkins have stayed in touch over the years. This week’s events, however, could tighten their relationship.
“I drove through crazy traffic,” Young told Hawkins at the news conference. “I’ve been living in the nether regions of coaching junior college football and living in seclusion in Turlock, Calif., but I did make it.”
Young’s trip might develop into something more.