Our annual trip to Wyoming each fall — WYO-Mania — is always special.
Yet the 2011 WYO-Mania IX was extra special.
The night before the Wyoming Cowboys thumped the New Mexico Lobos to move to 7-3 about 50 of us, counting some university officials, ate in the Paul Roach room and I was a few seats down from Paul Roach.
Not often do you sit near a guy who has accomplished enough in his lifetime to have a room named after him.
Roach was the Wyoming head coach from 1987 to 1990, compiling a 35-15 record (.700 winning percentage), with two seasons of 10 or more wins (1987–1988) as he won WAC Coach of the Year honors and was a two-time finalist for National Coach of the Year. Later he was the athletic director.
Seated nearby was former Wyoming quarterback Art Howe, who injured his back, turned to baseball going on to play 11 years in the majors and managing 14 seasons.
Roach began telling stories … of his NFL days as an assistant and then his college coaching days as a head coach.
From 1977-1980 he was the running back coach with the Denver Broncos and told about a young coach on staff in 1978.
“The guy would come up, ask ‘coach why are we doing it this way?’ What about trying it like this? Coach how we do it that way? And on and on it went,” Roach said. “Finally I told him to cut it out, save his questions for either lunch or after practice.
“After practice it was even worse — he had even more questions written on his note pad. He was a learner. He kept us late for dinner. He’d rather talk football than eat.”
The name of the young enthusiastic coach?
Bill Belichick, the Broncos assistant special teams coach and defensive assistant, and now New England Patriots head coach who lost Super Bowl by four points to the New York Giants Sunday night in Indianapolis.
Roach’s first year in the pros was as a running backs coach with the 1972 Oakland Raiders.
“I thought I did OK during camp and now it’s time for our first flight,” Roach told the table. “I get onto the plane and I’m looking at the name tags and I see I’m sitting beside the head coach. I’m thinking ‘hey I must have had a great camp — they’re putting beside the boss man.”
Like all good story tellers Roach saved his punch line for the ending.
“You know all that stuff about him being afraid of flying? All true,” Roach said. “He nearly ripped the seat rest off its moorings and my arm was black and blue.”
The name of the Raiders head coach?
After three years with the Broncos, Roach moved on to coach quarterbacks with the 1975-76 Green Bay Packers, then the Broncos and finally the Wyoming Cowboys.