BUFFALO, New York — After all these years and moves around the country chasing his football coaching career, Marc Lubick is still a Montanan at heart.
“That’s home for me — grew up there, went to college there,” Lubick said of Bozeman and Montana State University. “The thing I really miss is the people. Just going to school and playing there, I’ve got a lot of great relationships I developed while I was playing, and I’ve kept in contact with a handful of my friends, teammates, classmates. … I do really enjoy Montana, I miss it, I want to get back there as soon as I can.”
Lubick admitted he hasn’t been back to the Treasure State “for a while,” but traveling has been difficult during the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s even more difficult for an NFL coach during the season. Lubick is in his fourth year as a member of the Buffalo Bills’ coaching staff, joining the franchise when head coach Sean McDermott was hired in 2017.
It’s been a rapid rise for the Bills ever since. They made the playoffs in 2017 and 2019 and are currently 11-3 this season, having already clinched the AFC East division title and playing like one of the best teams in the entire NFL.
This stretch of success is a far cry from where the Bills spent most of the century — prior to their 2017 playoff berth, they hadn’t played in the postseason since 1999. They haven’t won a playoff game since 1995.
“It’s been really exciting. I came in with coach McDermott with his first staff, and so it’s kind of fun to watch the team grow and improve over the past four years,” said Lubick, Buffalo’s assistant wide receivers coach who is also in charge of game management. “It’s been a great experience, and we’ve got a lot of great coaches, a lot of great players, a lot of great support staff that has helped us all year with what we’re doing right now.”
While this 2020 season has been especially rewarding with the on-field results, Lubick has been in love with his profession from the get-go. The son of legendary college football coach Sonny Lubick, Marc Lubick was born in Bozeman when his dad was a coach at Montana State. Marc spent his formative years in the Gallatin Valley, but he went to high school in Fort Collins, Colorado, after his dad was hired as the head coach at Colorado State.
Marc returned to Bozeman in 1996 and played defensive back for the Bobcats until 1999. Though he never won a game against rival Montana, Lubick recalled some “good battles” with the Grizzlies — the Cats lost 27-25 in 1997 and 28-21 in 1998 — and he still tunes into the annual Cat-Griz game when he can.
“I’ve been following them ever since I left, and, shoot, they’ve been doing a great job. They’ve been playing very well,” Lubick said. “I know they’ve got the Grizzlies’ number. I’ve been watching those games, where there’s been some goal-line stands, there’s been some big plays, it’s exciting games.”
After wrapping up his MSU playing career in 1999, Lubick got his coaching career started as a defensive student assistant on his dad’s staff at Colorado State. Since then, he’s traversed the country, coaching at both the college and NFL levels for the past 20 years, which included winning Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos.
“It’s been a great experience over the past four years, actually my entire coaching career,” Marc Lubick said. “It’s kind of why you’re in it, you want to teach people and help them out and make them better. So, that’s been a great experience. Really, I enjoy coaching, so as long as I can stay in this profession I’ll be thrilled with being in the profession. I’ve coached in college, I’ve coached in the NFL. I think coaching’s coaching, whether it’s high school, college or NFL. The guys want to work hard, the guys want to compete and they want to get better. As long as I’m in the coaching ranks and teaching individuals, I’ll be happy with my profession.”
The coaching profession has long been the family business. Sonny Lubick is a Butte native and got his start coaching at Butte High School in the 1960s. That led him to Montana State, where he won a Big Sky Conference championship in 1979, and then assistant jobs at Colorado State, Stanford and Miami. He returned to Colorado State in 1993 and coached the Rams for 15 years.
Marc’s older brother, Matt, is in his first season as the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Nebraska. Matt Lubick was an NAIA All-American defensive back at Western Montana College (now Montana Western) in the early 1990s and has spent the duration of his coaching career at the college level, which included stops at Oregon and Washington before his current job with Nebraska.
“My dad’s able to watch all our games on TV. He’s not able to travel this year, so we usually talk after the game and talk about certain situations or who’s playing well, who’s making some plays, who’s helping out on this end,” Marc Lubick said. “My brother, it's a little harder to talk with him. We don’t talk as much, just because he’s busy game planning and working for Nebraska, but we try to visit at least once a week. It’s just, first off, check in and see how each other’s doing and then we usually talk football and see how that ends for us.”
For the younger brother, the football side couldn’t be going much better, and he couldn’t be coaching for a much better fan base. Bills Mafia is one of the NFL’s more passionate group of fans, and its members are known for their outlandish antics. Fans haven’t been permitted at Buffalo’s home games, but they’ve consistently shown their support in other ways.
After the Bills officially clinched the division title with their win at Denver on Dec. 19, fans showed up in droves at the airport to welcome the team back to Buffalo.
“We get in from our game against the Broncos this past Saturday night, or actually we get in Sunday morning about 2 a.m., and, shoot, I mean, it’s like we just won the Super Bowl. It is packed with fans, they’re going crazy, it’s unbelievable the support we get here, and you really get that whether you win or lose. I mean, they always support you, they’ve always got your back, so it’s pretty exciting,” Lubick said.
If that sounds similar to the Montana State faithful, Lubick said it’s because it is. By NFL standards, Buffalo is a smaller city, and the Bills are the biggest show in town. Bills Stadium is located in Buffalo’s southern metropolitan area in what Lubick described “like a neighborhood.”
“It really has like a small, college-type atmosphere. It does remind me very similar of being back in Bozeman,” said Lubick, who has made Buffalo home with his wife, Stephanie, and their 18-month-old son. “Then the weather, we get the seasons a lot like you do in Montana — I enjoy the change of seasons, I don’t mind being a little cold playing football, I think that’s how it should be played — so there are some big similarities. The one thing I do miss, I do miss the beautiful mountains in Bozeman.”
Spoken like a Montanan at heart.