BOZEMAN — Just more than a decade ago, Bobby Daly was tackling his way to an all-American season on the football field at Montana State. Earlier this year he returned to Bobcat Stadium to help lead MSU football into the future.
Daly was hired as the assistant head coach and linebackers coach in January, joining head coach Jeff Choate’s staff prior to Montana State’s spring drills. Daly, who ranks No. 4 in MSU history with 382 career tackles, returned to his alma mater after six years at the University of Idaho, where he was most recently the linebackers coach under Vandals head coach Paul Petrino.
Daly sat down with MTN Sports at the conclusion of MSU’s spring football season to discuss his return to Bozeman, his relationship with fellow Helena Capital graduate Petrino, the buzz surrounding the Bobcat football program and his recent marriage.
MTN Sports: Last time we chatted with you we were in the MSU football post-game press conference room, you were back in Bozeman but wearing different colors, to be back and all (dressed) in MSU stuff, how does it feel to represent (Montana State) again?
Bobby Daly: “It’s a blessing. I went out to Idaho and (Vandals coach Paul Petrino) opened up doors for me that nobody would at the time, so I’m forever grateful for him, but ultimately, coming back to Montana, Montana State in particular, being close to family, starting a family myself, I think it was a great move for me and I’ve been very happy thus far.”
MTN Sports: Two parts to this question: 1) How challenging is that when you have to have a conversation with someone like that, a coach Petrino, someone who gives you an opportunity, and then, 2) The excitement of, Montana State wanted to bring Montana State guys back and that’s exactly what they’ve done, so what are each of those aspects of the transition?
Daly: “(Petrino) has been my mentor the last six years, someone I definitely look up to, and he’s someone I’ll continue to look up to. I wish him and the whole Idaho staff nothing but the best, but ultimately, I had to make a decision for me and for my family. My wife has a very close relationship with my mother, and having that support system closer, my brother lives in Billings, his wife Maggie is very close with my wife, too, so just giving her that support system was huge for me, but coming back to my alma mater was very important to me, as well.”
MTN Sports: Coming back at a perfect time, there’s so much buzz around here with the return of (defensive coordinator) Kane Ioane, helping lead this defense, what’s it been like as you guys make your treks around the state, you’re on recruiting visits or whatever it may be, just knowing that this place is buzzing?
Daly: “We’re trending in the right direction and that’s one of the things that led to me making this decision to come back, keeping an eye on coach Choate the last three years and what he’s been doing over here. I just feel like it was a perfect place for me to come back, add value to this university that’s given me so much. You talk about Kane, he was my coach while I was here, so he was someone who I looked up to, someone who became a friend of mine after playing here. We kept that relationship as he was here at Montana State and then on to Washington, but getting an opportunity to work with him has been awesome. Very sharp, love what he’s bring back from UW and I think we can implement it very easily and very well, and I think we have the pieces to be very good on defense.
MTN Sports: So back in the day you were sitting in the meeting room, Kane is up at the white board, you have to sit, shut up and listen. How much fun is it now to be able to chime in now and again, being able to pitch in during the meetings and working together?
Daly: “That’s the thing about Kane, he has a very defined vision of what he wants, but he is very open to other ideas. I can bring an idea to him and say, ‘Hey I’ve done this in the past, it’s worked well for us, worked well for me, is it something that you’re OK implementing?’ and he’s very open to those ideas. Sometimes, if it doesn’t match up with what his vision of the defense is, we move on to something else. But I think working with a guy who is open to those ideas has been very, very fun for me.”
MTN Sports: In your opinion, what’s that one thing you really bring to the table you feel really confident in with your position group, coming in with all the experience you’ve gathered in the last six, seven years?
Daly: “I think I have gathered a lot of knowledge, a lot of stuff I didn’t have as a player, but I do believe that as a player I was a very cerebral player, so I think I have a good mixture of energy, being the No. 1 thing, but I think I can relate to guys because I’ve been in their shoes, as far as being not only a linebacker, but a linebacker at this university, and then bringing the knowledge I’ve gained over the last few years can only add to me relating to them, but also guiding them.”
MTN Sports: That leads perfectly to this question, do any of these guys know your history, know how good you were? Do they know how good Kane was? Do they feel like they have to listen because of that a little bit more?
Daly: “I think, probably, the Montana kids have an idea. Growing up either a fan of the Bobcats or even the Griz, I would imagine our names showed up at different points in their lives if they were following one (team) or the other. Out of state kids, not so much, but there is always that mutual respect that they have for me as a coach, and I have a great group. I haven’t had any defiant kids in the room, they’ve embraced me, so that’s made my job so much easier.”
MTN Sports: Those Montana kids know you, who was that guy on the Bobcats back when you were in high school, junior high, whatever, that you were in that same type of position?
Daly: “I grew up in Clancy, which is a little bit outside of Helena, and I had the opportunity to either go into Helena to high school or to Boulder, and there was a kid by the name of Adam Cordeiro, a Boulder kid who I kind of grew up around, who came and played here and had a very good career as a defensive lineman. He was a guy that, having my dad play here I was already a Bobcat fan, but he kind of made me gravitate toward the program, just watching from a distance, he probably doesn’t even know that.”
MTN Sports: What’s it been like with this group of guys as you talk to recruits and try to convince them, “We’re building on something here, this is something we want to take further,” and you’re a part of that plan?
Daly: “When coach Choate brought me in, that was something he made very clear to me as far as what I bring to the table in recruiting. He said, ‘I can sell a vision to what I want this place to be, but you’ve been here, you’ve done that. So I want you to, more than anything, I have the vision, you just let them know what it’s like to be a part of this program.’ With my time here, I have nothing but good experiences, so hopefully the feedback I can give guys that are making that, really the biggest decision of their life to this point, hopefully I can put their minds at ease. If MSU is a place that they want to be, I can make sure that this is a good fit for them.”
MTN Sports: How much fun is it for you guys as a staff with all the Montana connections and being able to talk about this town that nobody has ever heard of, and how it has the best food, you talk about Clancy, maybe you head out there to get the big (prime rib) or whatever it is. BJ (Robertson), Matt Miller, Choate is a Western guy, there are some fun topics you guys can have with this familiarity.
Daly: “We have a great staff. A lot of guys with Montana ties, as you mentioned, a lot of guys that are kind of younger, and then you have (special teams coach and recruiting coordinator BJ Robertson), Army (offensive line/run game coordinator coach Brian Armstrong), coach Choate, they have a young side to them as well. We all mix pretty good, I think we have a good camaraderie as a coaching staff, but the guy to talk to about Montana and small towns is BJ. He talks about towns that I’ve never heard of, and I’ve lived here pretty much my whole life, so if you want to know about a little town in Timbuktu, BJ is your guy.
MTN Sports: So he tells you, ‘If you go recruiting here, this is where you need to stop for lunch?
Daly: “Yeah lunch, a drink, whatever the case may be, he’ll let you know.”
MTN Sports: Do you have that one spot he’s mentioned that was either the best?
Daly: “He always talks about the Bucking Horse Sale out in Miles City. I was out there, shoot, 2004 for the (Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl MonDak game), it was the only time I’ve spent any time in Miles City, but the Bucking Horse Sale, man, he raves about that.”
MTN Sports: That seems about right for the cowboy in BJ. You mentioned the wife a couple times, this spring you guys were newly married, what’s that all been like, how you guys met? Get as sappy as you want for the people at home.
Daly: “My wife is awesome. She’s a physical therapist, Jasmine Daly, formerly Williams. Physical therapist, graduated from the University of Utah, but she was an athlete in college, one of the things that I gravitated towards her because of that. She was a track star, ran at Ole Miss, ran the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and I hate to even put this on camera, but she was faster than I ever was. A lot of that I give her crap, sometimes, about ‘I like her because she’s a breeder,’ but there is a longstanding relationship, we’ve been together for about three years now and I love her to death.”
MTN Sports: How much fun is that just having the athletic background, understanding your job, a lot of times you’ll be on the road, a lot of times you’re going to have playbooks at the dinner table, whatever else?
Daly: “She understands all that and has been very supportive. I hope I can help her, support her. She’s brand new to physical therapy, a fresh graduate, but I always tell her that if she can get in front of the right people, she’s going to sell herself. She’s very bubbly, very personable, loves being around people and she’s very knowledgable. The sky is the limit for her, she’ll probably have more success in her industry than I ever will, but I’m very fortunate to have her.”
MTN Sports: We’ll get there eventually, but future kids, track? Football? They’re in different seasons, so they could do both in school, but if it comes down to it, who nudges harder when the time comes?
Daly: “I’m going to let mama bear make those decisions. I’ve been told, ‘Happy wife, happy life,’ and I want to make her happy, first and foremost, but you can bet I’ll be pushing for football.”
MTN Sports: Finally, what else about being back, we’ve been asking guys when you’re away from football, don’t have those other responsibilities, are you getting out and enjoying Montana again?
Daly: “I’ve taken Jasmine up to Hyalite Canyon and tried to introduce her to how beautiful it is around here. It’s a destination place that everyone wants to live. But the big thing for me is the support system I have here in Montana, be it family or friends, just people that are willing to reach out and give me a helping hand because of the relationships I’ve established when I was here as a player and even after that. It’s been very welcoming, I didn’t expect anything else, but it’s been very good.”