An Interview with CU Buffs Legend Darian Hagan
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Darian Hagan changed the way that college football was regarded in Boulder, Colorado, and throughout America. The dual threat quarterback out of Locke High School in Los Angeles brought incomparable speed to the position as well as the ability to help lead a legendary group of Colorado Buffaloes to the ultimate goal of a National Championship in 1990.
Present day sees Hagan as Coach Hagan, serving his 12th year as assistant coach to a Buffs football program that has turned the corner under Coach Mike MacIntyre and is back on the college football map.
Sir and Sport sat down with the CU football icon for a look back and a look forward at the sport he grew up loving in a place where he was given the chance to showcase his god-given talents. And then we ran him through our 2-Minute Drill. How would the 47-year-old react to a challenge of scoring against our pressure? See for yourself as we get ready for kick-off.
You’ve been a part of the CU coaching staff since 2005 and you’ve worked under three different coaches with Gary Barnett, Dan Hawkins and now Coach MacIntyre. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. It says you’re getting your job done regardless of which coach you’re working with. Do you ever think about your staying power and what you’ve accomplished so far here in Boulder?
No. I don’t. What I think of is that I’m giving back to my alma mater and that I’m staying involved in the sport. I work with these kids on a daily basis for my love and belief in them and the University of Colorado.
Three years ago, the Buffs were 2-10. Last year 10-4. It’s an incredible turnaround. Talk to me about the difference from then to now in attitude, chemistry and football play that has this program headed in the right direction.
It’s the culture. It’s Coach MacIntyre. He has provided the blueprint and the plan for how successful we want to be. We’ve recruited well and we’re seeing the fruits of our labor.
What does CU mean to you?
It means everything to me. CU gave me an opportunity as an 18-year old kid to come here and be a part of something special. To still be a part of it at 47-years old is a blessing from above. I’ll always be a Buff. To still be a part of it at my age (47) and to still be able to contribute in a positive way is a blessing from above.
That 30 for 30 feature on ESPN sure was an eye-opener to everything going on behind-the-scenes with Coach Mac (Coach Bill McCartney), the racial divide here at school, Sal Aunese and the national championship season. You were featured prominently in that and it had to be a trip down Memory Lane for you. What are your thoughts on all of that during your time here as a student athlete? How did those ups and downs end up shaping your life?
I really didn’t experience the racial divide. I was coming from Los Angeles and Locke High School that was 99% African American to a campus in Boulder that was 99% Caucasian. So there was definitely culture shock . I was raised to do things the right way and to represent my family, myself and my community the right way, so you put those things in perspective and you tend to make the right decisions. I take a lot of pride in that.
Who are some newcomers to the Buffs, both offensively and defensively, that you’re excited to see become household names on the team?
We have a bunch of guys whose futures are bright here. If we keep recruiting like we’re recruiting and winning like we did last year, then the sky’s the limit.
THE 2-MINUTE DRILL
You’re a competitor. What’s an activity that you could beat me in right now?
Running. I can still run a little bit.
Pho. My girlfriend and I LOVE Vietnamese soup.
Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy.
Life with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. Every time I watch that, I die laughing. It never gets old.
Favorite vacation spot.
My girlfriend is Trinidadian and Filipino. We visited her father in Trinidad & Tobago and it was amazing. It’s a great culture with beaches everywhere and American money goes a long way down there.
Favorite music artists/groups.
The Temptations and The Gap Band.
If you weren’t coaching for a living, what’s another career you’d like to do?
Law enforcement. An FBI agent. I majored in Sociology here with that in mind.
You get stuck in the elevator at Folsom Field. Who do you hope is there for company and entertainment and why?
Phillip Lindsay. I wouldn’t get bored. We’d talk and laugh for a long time talking about whatever. Our comfort level around each other is amazing.
The last book you read.
The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman
What TV shows do you never miss?
Maury (Povich). I record it daily and when I got off work at 10pm every night, I come home and watch both episodes.
What was your favorite car growing up? What is it now?
Back then, it was my first ride – a 1964 VW Beetle with a sunroof. Now it’s a BMW X6.
Best player you ever played against?
Raghib “Rocket” Ismail from Notre Dame. Just watching him warm up before the game was incredible. He was graceful, super fast and the ultimate competitor. He was just phenomenal.
Best player you ever played with?
My teammates from CU like Eric Bienemy, JJ Flanagan, Mike Pritchard, Charles Johnson, Alfred Williams, Kanavis McGhee, Deon Figures and Chris Hudson. We had some studs on those Buff teams.
Outside of the CU roster, who is the most fascinating player to you in college football.
Lamar Jackson at Louisville (last year’s Heisman Trophy Winner). When you’re shaping a team, anyone would want him. When you have a quarterback who can do a lot of different things then you can be really good. That’s what college football is all about.
Where was the toughest environment to play football when you played? Where is the toughest environment now?
When I played, it was Nebraska. That sea of red was crazy and intimidating and no one there liked us. Now, I’d say Utah. They are becoming a pretty intense rival, and each of the last five games we’ve played have been decided by 7 points or less.