STORY BY MONTANA SPORTS INFORMATION
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – This year’s Super Bowl may feature two teams from the east coast, but Montana football will be represented for the first time since Brock Coyle and the Seahawks played for a ring in 2015.
Tim Hauck, the legendary Griz player, coach, former 37 jersey holder, and brother of Griz head coach Bobby Hauck, will be patrolling the sidelines in Minneapolis as the safeties coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.
It’s a long way from Missoula (and even further from Big Timber) to football’s biggest stage, and the former Grizzly has taken the long road to get there.
Hauck was a three-year letterman for the Griz from 1987-89 who remains one of the top ten tacklers in UM history, and still holds school records for blocked kicks. After his time at UM, he was picked up by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent, the first of seven teams he’d play for in the league. He then returned to Montana to coach from 2004-2007 before moving up to the FBS and NFL ranks.
In the 19 years Hauck has lived his childhood dream as a professional player and coach, he’s never made it to the big dance. But that all changes Sunday when those Super Bowl dreams finally come true, and he says it will taste that much sweeter after nearly two decades of waiting.
“You put in so much time and effort to get there, and when the dream comes true, it makes it that much more special,” said Hauck on the phone from Minnesota. “I think the more you have to endure to get success, the more satisfying it is when you actually get there. Now we’ve just got to find a way to win it to finish this dream off.”
Known as a hard-nosed player in his professional days, Hauck had a close call with the Super Bowl as a player for the Eagles in the 2002 NFC Championship game, nearly knocking off the Rams in St. Louis. In the ever-increasing parity of the NFL, he isn’t taking this trip to the show for granted.
“A lot of people don’t understand how hard it is to get here,” Hauck said. “You always think there’s going to be another chance, but it took a lot of years to get back. It’s hard, so I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.”
This year’s Eagles had to travel a hard road to get in this position. They started the season winning 10 of their first 11 games, but after star quarterback Carson Wentz (who Hauck was on hand to see play in Washington-Grizzly stadium in 2015) and several other key players went down with injury, have bounced back to make an improbable run to the title game.
“It wasn’t just Carson getting hurt this year, we lost future hall of fame offensive tackle Jason Peters, we lost maybe our best linebacker in Jordan Hicks, we lost maybe a future hall of fame running back in Darren Sproles, and we lost our best special teams player in Chris Maragos,” Hauck says. “But this is a very tight-knit group. A lot of teams talk about family and doing things for one another, and these guys just kept saying it’s no big deal, we are going to get this done.”
So how does an injury-riddled team pick itself up by the bootstraps and march through the NFL playoffs? The answer might be in part thanks to something the Hauck family knows a little something about: Montana toughness.
It’s a phenomenon that has served former Griz well in the pros over the years, earning them a reputation for having a blue-collar attitude in a league where hard work is a commodity.
“Montana people go about their business, they take a lot of pride in what they do, and they work hard at it. If you can do that stuff it’s going to take you a long way in life, not just on the football field,” Hauck added.
“Tough-minded, tough-willed, tough spirit and tough physically, that’s kind of how the Montana football program was built.”
During his three years in Philadelphia, a town known for its toughness, Hauck has tried to bring a little of that Montana toughness to the Eagles. As they prepare to take the field in the Super Bowl for the third time in franchise history, it seems to be paying off.
“I had to fight as an undersized guy. I had to fight to make teams and play at every level, not just the NFL. Whether it was being a walk-on in college or being a free agent in the NFL and then making roster after roster, you have to have a little toughness to do that,” Hauck says.
“This team is in there putting in time after we leave the building, putting in extra film time, and they work hard on the practice field. They don’t leave a stone unturned and they hold each other accountable.”
As Americans gather around the TV for its annual football holiday tomorrow, only time will tell if the Eagles’ adopted Montana tough attitude will be enough to unseat the defending champion Patriots.
“You have to respect those guys. They are a team that finds ways to win no matter what it takes, and we’ve got to find a way to get them on their heels and play on our terms.”
What we do know is that Montana tough people watching around the world might be hoping this Griz great can bring a ring back to the Treasure State.