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Hauck's return to Havre brings back memories of Marc

 

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana Grizzly football coach Bobby Hauck talks to local Griz fans during a luncheon May 22 at Tilleman Motors. Hauck was in Havre has part of the Grizzly Scholarship Association Spring Tour, and while in town, he certainly talked about his fond memories of coaching former Havre Blue Pony star Marc Mariani.

Montana Grizzly head football coach Bobby Hauck made a stop in Havre May 22, as part of the Grizzly Scholarship Association Spring Coaches Tour. And while this year marks the start of his second go-around as head coach of the Grizzlies, with Hauck squarely focused on Montana football "Returning to Dominance" a stop in Havre certainly invoked a lot of special memories for the man who led the Griz to unprecedented success.

And, during a lunch at Tilleman Motors, many of those fond memories revolved around one of Havre's favorite sons - Marc Mariani.

Mariani's story is one of legend now, not only in Havre, but certainly in Missoula, where he went from being a walk-on to one of the greatest Grizzly receivers and kick returners of all time. And, in Mariani's five years with the Montana program, which included three All-Conference selections, being a two-time FCS All-American, two FCS national championship game appearances, and breaking UM"s all-time receiving record, Hauck had a front-row seat for all of it.

"There are two things that really make me smile when I think about Marc," Hauck said. "One was off the field. We weren't smart enough to recruit him. He walked on. But we just didn't know really know how fast he was. Of course, it turned out he was really fast, but at the time, we just didn't know, because you couldn't really tell off of his high school film. So one that makes me laugh is, his buddies used to call him 106, because we had 105 players on the roster and he was 106. So we finally let him in the door, and he just took off. So it's really neat to see that he went from there to becoming a superstar, which is what it's really what it's all about.

"On the field memories, there's so many great ones," he continued. "The bigtime catch that was the ESPN Sportscenter top play of the day in the (2008) national championship game. And then there was his huge punt return for a touchdown against the Bobcats that springboarded us on our way to a 35-3 win. Those are my two favorites."

Indeed, Mariani created hours worth of spectacular highlights at Montana, and especially on kickoff and punt returns, which even makes his relationship with his former head coach that much more special, considering Hauck was not just the Griz' head coach, he was also in charge of special teams during Mariani's time with the Grizzlies.

And since Hauck directly coached Mariani, who not only became one of the greatest kick and punt returners in Grizzly history, but who went on to earn a Pro Bowl selection as a kick returner with the Tennessee Titans, it would stand to reason that Hauck could see Mariani doing some coaching of his own with the Griz and his former mentor one day.

"I think Marc's capable of doing whatever he wants," Hauck said. "The commitment, time-wise, and the sacrifice that goes into it, it's kind of a lifestyle, not just a job. But certainly, if Marc was ever interested in pursuing that, he's got a lot of aptitude for it. One, he's a great person, he'd be a great recruiter, he's a hard worker, he's smart, he can do all of it. So, if he was ever wired that way, he's certainly a guy who could do the job."

That's high praise from someone who's done the job as good as anybody who has ever stalked the Grizzly sideline.

While Hauck was in charge of the Griz during Mariani's time in maroon and silver, the Grizzlies won four straight Big Sky championships and four straight games against the hated Bobcats. They had one of the most dominant four-year runs, not only in school history, but in Big Sky and FCS history as well.

And now, Mariani's head coach during his glory days at UM, is back, and he's working hard to try and return the Grizzlies to that sort of excellence.

While in Havre, he spoke to local Griz fans about the roster, the hard work the team put in in his first spring ball back in Missoula, about the excitement surrounding the program again, and most importantly, about the official mantra for the 2018 Grizzly football team, which has been made into an #RTD hashtag, which simply stands for: Return to Dominance.

And dominance is something Hauck and Mariani know well. And while Hauck is laser-focused on the season, which is fast-approaching, he's also taking the time to truly soak in his homecoming. He's enjoying the return to the Griz' program, and that was certainly on display in Havre, at a lunch hosted by another former Griz legend, Mike Tilleman.

"First of all, the University of Montana is a special place, to me personally and to my entire family," Hauck said. "So it's been so great to be back. To be here today, to see all the old friends in Havre, to sit down and have lunch and talk to everybody, it's cool. And it's been that way everywhere we've gone in the state. It's been exciting and humbling, because everywhere we go, people are excited about the future of Grizzly football. It's just been really neat."

Neat indeed. And judging from the turnout last Tuesday in Havre, and everywhere else Hauck and the spring tour has rolled through, the excitement for Griz football is definitely palpable.

And while the first game of Hauck's second tenure is still a summer away, he, his players, and his staff are working hard, and will be fired up and ready to run out of that famed tunnel come Sept. 2 when Northern Iowa invades Washington-Grizzly Stadium for Hauck's first game back on the Griz' sidelines.

"We've got an opener against a team that probably finished 25 spots ahead of us in the final poll," Hauck said. "So we're going to need every day. For us, as much preparation time as we can get, the better you're going to be. So the summer can slow down for sure. But our guys are excited about that game. They're looking forward to it, and I know Griz Nation is too. It will be very exciting when it does get here."

 

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