Q&A with U.S. head coach Dan Hawkins
Dan Hawkins has experienced his share of the best football has to offer.
He’s been the head coach at Willamette University, Boise State and the University of Colorado. Most recently he has been a college football analyst for ESPN and Sirius XM radio. Hawkins is well-versed in what it takes to be successful among a variety of levels of football.
This summer, the Boise, Idaho, resident takes on a new challenge as U.S. Men’s National Team head coach, leading the United States against seven other nations in the IFAF World Championship. Hawkins will attempt to follow former U.S. head coaches John Mackovic (2007) and Mel Tjeerdsma (2011) in earning a gold medal in international football’s biggest event.
With his son, Cody, part of the U.S. coaching staff, Hawkins will lead a 10-day training camp getting the U.S. team tournament-ready before playing four games July 9-18 in Canton, Ohio.
Hawkins recently spoke to USA Football about the upcoming tournament and his thoughts on international football.
Why take this position?
I had a chance to watch the 2011 U.S. men’s squad play in Austria and really enjoyed it. I thought it was a unique opportunity. My son (U.S. quarterbacks coach Cody Hawkins) played on the team, and I knew Mel Tjeerdsma, who was the head coach of that team.
It brings together a great group of guys and helps football grow internationally. This tournament gives us a chance to support all that and represent the United States on the football field, something not a lot of players or coaches have the chance to do.
What did you think of the 2011 IFAF World Championship?
We went to Innsbruck, Austria, to watch the three round robin games. We were able to see the team and hang around with them during some free time.
What I remember most is spending time with the people from other cultures. That is always the most enriching, meeting people from all over the world. It’s the people that stick with you, not the buildings and mountains. Exchanging ideas, experiences cultures, interacting with people … that’s what makes world go round. We were able to share the experience of football, a game dear to everyone there, and enjoy the competition.
What is your impression of international football?
We’ve had several experiences to draw from. Cody and I coached the Australian junior national football team last year. We got a chance to be around those players and coaches. It was really rewarding. I have former players who are coaching and playing internationally. We live in a much smaller world now.
International players and coaches are part of football because they love it. They are not getting paid a bunch of money. I’ve talked to people about opportunities to coach their clubs internationally, and it’s not about the money. It’s about truly unique and enriching experiences.
Cody played professionally in Sweden. We went there to watch a few games as well. Those players are no less passionate about the sport than any kid who grows up in the States. Some of them have to take long bus rides, ride trains, come in after work. … They make tremendous sacrifices to play.
We also had a short stint in Montreal, Quebec, in the CFL, so we’ve seen football from several different angles internationally.
How is your coaching staff working together leading up to the event?
I’ve been working with (USA Football National Team general manager) Todd Bell and our staff through phone and the Internet. We’ve gone through several issues together as far as forming a staff. I’ve known a lot of those guys for years, and we’ve got a pretty good idea of what everyone wants to do and what they are about. We also need to take into consideration what our players are comfortable with and what they like to do.
We will work to get them ready.
How are you stressing the importance of being an ambassador of the sport?
That’s an important aspect of becoming part of this team. It’s not just about getting a good player. It’s about guys who are good representatives of our country and of football. U.S. players have to understand that these guys are going to look up to you. Every smile, every open door and every thank you goes a long way. The guys on the team in 2011 spent a lot of time with players from other teams and had a lot of respect for them, befriended them. That goes a long way.
Players and coaches need to respect themselves, the sport and the guys on the other teams and help foster football on the international level.
Are you looking forward to visiting Canton, Ohio?
I’ve never been to Canton, Ohio, but it’s a football destination that I’ll enjoy experiencing. I always love to travel. I look forward to seeing the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Any uncharted territory is exciting territory for me.
We are excited to play football, represent our country, and represent USA Football with excellence and class.