Jordan Tripp was among the first to publicly congratulate Bobby Hauck on his recent promotion.

How appropriate, I thought. Two of the most driven individuals to ever walk down the tunnel at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, still plugging away and churning up adversity under their feet, relentless in their pursuit of football success.

We all know what happened to Tripp in 2015. The former Montana Grizzly linebacker quickly bounced back after being cut by the Miami Dolphins, becoming the first Missoula man in 85 years to earn an NFL start after signing with the Jaguars.

Hauck, Tripp's former coach and a man who was never fully appreciated for the success he had as Griz skipper from 2003-09, resigned as leader of the seemingly-forever-broken UNLV football program in December of 2014. His turnaround was almost as quick as that of Tripp.

It took Bobby one season as an assistant at San Diego State to grab headlines, this month receiving an award (Mountain West Recruiter of the Year) and promotion (associate head coach). His Aztecs have won 10 games in a row, the second-longest active win streak in big-time college football.

To put it in Treasure State terms, the intense one from Big Timber wasted no time getting back on his horse.

"Either that or it's desperation," he joked in an interview with the Missoulian.

Hauck coached at Montana at a time when losing was simply unacceptable. Three times he guided the Grizzlies to the FCS title game in compiling a gaudy record of 80-17.

"The last four years when we were 31-1 in the conference and whatever it was overall (51-6), it was a lot of fun," Hauck said. "The investment the community has in it there, I thought it was really cool everyone shared in the joy of games and championships.

"You don't get to replicate that unless you're winning at that magnitude in a college town. It was a unique time and I was glad to be a part of it."

Does Hauck miss Missoula? Definitely. Does he ever wish he hadn't left? You bet.

Bobby actually talked with UM officials when Mick Delaney stepped down as Grizzly head coach in 2014. He still keeps in close contact with several of Montana's most generous athletic department donors.

As you know, Delaney was succeeded by Bob Stitt, who lost five games in his debut season. Hauck never lost five games in a season at Montana. He lost four in his last three seasons combined.

Given the upgrades to Montana's facilities and the recovery time the Grizzlies have had since a nightmarish 2012 led to the firing of coach Robin Pflugrad and athletic director Jim O'Day, it's time to start thinking big again.

I mean real big. Let's leave the excuses to all those teams that average a fraction of Montana's 24,000 fans per home game.

"I think it's a big year for them," said Hauck, who guided UM to the FCS title game in his second season. "For Montana to be Montana, you have to win the Big Sky Conference championship and you have to compete in the playoffs.

"The expectation has been re-centered. You don't have to win every game by four touchdowns now. I'm pretty sure if we would have lost five games, they would have burned my house down with me in it. But we all want what is best for that program, which is winning championships."

Even when Hauck was at UNLV, he found a way to lead the Rebels to their first bowl game in 15 years. Had certain people been a little more patient, he would have accomplished even more.

"Frankly I think had we found a way to win a couple of games we should have our last year, then (2015) we'd a been there and probably had a chance to get back to a bowl game," Bobby opined. "We had the only returning starting quarterback in the league, who's a pretty good player.

"Then you're in a bowl game two out of three years and everybody is thinking what a wonderful job you did rather than why couldn't you quite get it going the way you needed to."

Regardless of where he's coaching or in what capacity, Hauck is a winner, plain and simple. One who knows how to motivate young men and will soon be signing up for another head coaching job.

For Montana's sake, let's hope it's not at the FCS level, guiding one of the Grizzlies' rivals.

Bill Speltz can be reached at 523-5255 or bill.speltz@missoulian.com.

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