|DAVIS, Calif. --He's taken his family on vacation to Machu Picchu in Peru, he's been a science teacher, he's jumped out of airplanes and he's coached football in 11 different countries. For Dan Hawkins, who was introduced on Tuesday as the 17th head coach in the 101-year history of the UC Davis football program, those haven't just been items to cross off a bucket list, they've been opportunities to learn.
It's that thirst for learning that's brought Hawkins, a 1984 UC Davis alumnus who played and coached with legendary head coach Jim Sochor, back to his alma mater. It's a thirst that's never been quenched and for which he credits his parents.
"A lot of that comes from my dad and my mom," he said. "My dad didn't know anything about Zen but I always told him, `You're more of a Buddhist than you think you are.' My dad would stimulate thought in you and sometimes he would take the other side of it to make you argue a point , not that he was in favor of a certain point.
"He would always tell me it's a big, wide world out there and I would say something about somebody being different than me and he'd say, `That's what makes the world go `round."
Hawkins, a father of four grown children and a grandfather to six (with one more on the way), will look to impart his wisdom while also quenching that thirst to learn by leading the UC Davis football program.
Hawkins learned about winning as both a player and coach at UC Davis. He was a fullback on the 1982 Aggie team that went to the NCAA Division II Championship after winning the 12th of what would eventually reach a record 20 consecutive conference titles. He was then part of the staff the following three seasons under legendary coach Jim Sochor as UC Davis continued its winning ways.
They're lessons he's taken with him throughout the rest of his career. After finding success as an innovative and progressive head coach at several stops, including Boise State which he helped turn into a perennial national power between 2001-05, Hawkins was welcomed back to UC Davis at an introductory press conference on Tuesday by Director of Athletics Kevin Blue.
"We are very excited to welcome Dan Hawkins back to UC Davis to lead an exciting new era of football at his alma mater," Blue said. "Dan is a highly experienced head football coach who possesses in-depth expertise about what it takes to be successful in the modern era of Div. I college football."
Hawkins is excited about returning home to the Aggies.
"It's the right time, the right place and a good fit," Hawkins said. "This place is what I need and I think I'm what this place needs; someone that can engage the alums, the faculty, the football community and really just help us grow this called thing `UC Davis.' "
Hawkins' coaching tenure has been marked by innovation and success. His first collegiate opportunity as a head coach came at NAIA Willamette (Ore.) with a program that had just three winning seasons in its previous eight. He promptly turned it around by going 39-12-1 between 1993-97, including a pair of 5-0 conference marks, and a 13-1 overall record and NAIA national championship runner-up finish in 1997. It was there that he was also reunited with former Aggie coach Bob Foster, who helped him on the defensive side of the ball.
"Bob Foster was the quintessential guy who loved you up, who motivated you, and who made you feel wanted and important," he said.
Hawkins then matriculated to Boise State where he coached the tight ends before taking over head coaching duties in 2001. The rest, as they say, is history. Over the course of the next five seasons, Hawkins posted a 56-11 overall record, which included a 37-3 record and 31-game winning streak in the Western Athletic Conference. The Broncos, who went 36-3 overall between 2002-04, went to four bowl games while he was there, and using his innovations on offense, put together some impressive numbers.
In 2002, Boise State led the country in scoring (45.6) and total offense (501.5). They were also statistical categories that the Broncos bad top-10 national rankings over a combined five-year period from 2001-05. Hawkins coached 20 All-WAC first-team selections and three All-Americans at Boise State. Additionally, 10 more players found homes in the NFL. The Broncos won four WAC titles while he was head coach.
For his part, Hawkins was named the WAC Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2004 and was a finalist for the 2004 Paul "Bear" Bryant College Football Coach of the Year Award.
Hawkins then took over a rebuilding Colorado program from 2006-10, gaining more invaluable experience with his tenure in the powerful Big XII Conference. He highlighted his time in Boulder with a 27-24 win over third-ranked Oklahoma during his second season.
Hawkins, who has also coached at Christian Brothers High School (1986-87) in Sacramento, College of the Siskiyous (1988-91), Sonoma State (1992), in the CFL and in the Austrian Football League during his career, didn't stray far from the collegiate ranks after Colorado, serving as a studio analyst for ESPN in recent seasons.
His thirst for learning extends beyond the football field as well. An avid reader and purveyor of jazz music, Hawkins has even taken his family to South America on vacation to visit famed Machu Picchu in Peru.
"Dan Hawkins demonstrates an uncommon intellectual curiosity and shares our earnest commitment to the scholar-athlete ideal," Blue said. "Dan's understanding of our successful football history, combined with his knowledge and experience in contemporary college football, makes him the ideal coach to move our program forward."
Hawkins earned his undergraduate degree in physical education from UC Davis before earning a master's degree in educational administration from St. Mary's College in Moraga. He's married to the former Misti Rae Ann Hokanson.
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