His name is Darian Hagan and it has been a long ride since he wore his number three jersey on the once AstroTurf field at Folsom.
Hagan came to Colorado as an amazing athlete from Los Angeles, who lettered not only in football in high school, but also in baseball, basketball, and track. He would eventually get drafted by both the NFL (San Francisco in the fourth round of the 1992 draft) and the MLB (Seattle and Toronto).
In 1989, his sophomore season, he was nominated for the highest individual award in College Football, the Heisman Trophy.
“It was fun,” Hagan said, “I never expected it. You know, first year starter in college, never expected it. I just went out and performed and did what I was asked to do and being able to be up for the Heisman, go down to the Heisman ceremony, that was awesome.”
Though his team barely missed the national championship that year, the next year he would lead them back to the Orange Bowl, where they beat Notre Dame, the team that beat them the year before, to earn a national championship ring.
“We were close as a family, everybody played for each other,” said Hagan.
However, what he remembers most about that team, was not the national championship game, but a game in Texas against the Longhorns month’s earlier, when the Buffs were down going into the fourth quarter.
“Our defense had just made a stop, and our offense goes out, and meets them at the 50 yard line, and we started talking to them, keeping them up. They went down and got a safety, they kicked off, we had an 80-yard drive to win the game,” said Hagan, “That changed our season, we went from losing the previous week to winning ten in a row.”
In 1992, he left Colorado for the pros. Though he was drafted by the 49ers in the NFL, he played the next five seasons in Canada for the Canadian Football League (CFL).
“It was wild, you know twelve men on the field, motioning all over the place. It was like Rugby on a football field with football pads, so it was fun, the experience was awesome,” said Hagan.
Other than the great health benefits that the citizen’s of Canada received from the government, it also gave Hagan a feeling he never felt before.
“With the experience of getting paid for a sport I love, that was an awesome feeling for the first time,” said Hagan.
Before his fifth and final season in the CFL, Hagan returned to Boulder to finish up his bachelor’s degree in Sociology and graduated in 1996. The degree means a lot to Hagan, with him being the first person in three generations of his family to get a college degree.
“A lot of people thought I would never go to college,” said Hagan, “They doubted me, and to go and finish up at a prestigious university like this is special.”
After earning his degree, he stayed in Boulder and worked sales for the Transit Marketing Group for six years. He helped market and sell bus and light rail equipment throughout the country, and met a lot of great people that he is still in contact with today.
“It was awesome because I would never go and wear my rings or anything, but as soon as they heard my name they knew who I was,” said Hagan.
In 2003, than Colorado head coach, Gary Barnett, asked Hagan if he ever thought about coaching. Hagan, reluctant at first finally gave it a try, and joined Barnett’s staff in early 2004.
“It was special that he kept us,” said Hagan, “He talks a lot about coach Cabral is the heart and I’m the soul of the program. For him to reach out on his own and do that says a lot about him, because a lot of other coaches probably wouldn’t have done that.”
Though he played quarterback at CU 17 years ago, today he is the running backs coach for the team. But don’t tell him he’s not qualified for the job. In this two starting seasons at CU, Hagan tallied up 2,007 rushing yards at quarterback, a school record that still stands today.
“Coaching is coaching,” said Hagan who played running back in high school, “Pretty much here I was a glorified running back, I threw the ball a couple of times a game.”
In recent years, Colorado has best been known for its running attack, and this season the Buffs have a slew of talent in Ray Polk, Demetrius Sumler, Darrell Scott, and Rodney Stewart. For Hagan this can make for an exciting time to be a coach.
“(Ray) Polk is a kid that is raw, he is going to be a special player once he figures it out, gets a spring under his belt. Then you got Demetrius Sumler, who is the steady eddy guy, who does everything right. He’s physical on the run game, physical on pass protection. Then you got Darrell Scott, big powerful speed back, that’s just getting into his groove."
With all this young talent, primed for winning, what is the one lesson that he tries to instill in the minds of his running backs?
“Never take anything for granted,” said Hagan, “What you’re given, you earned. Don’t be a taker; be a giver, it’s a team sport. There’s only one football, but you need to go out and play with passion, play with heart, and if you’re in it for selfish reasons, you’re in the wrong place.”
Hagan, now 38, has two sons, Darian Jr. (19) and DeVaughn (16) who also play football, and a daughter, Danielle (12) who runs track. His oldest son, Darian, Jr. plays corner back at Cal, while his youngest son, DeVaughn plays running back at Cherry Creek High School in Denver.
“I tell the guys all the time, if I could change positions with them, they coach me and I’ll be their running back, I would do it in a minute,” said Hagan, “I do miss it, but hey, my time has passed, and it’s a new generation and it’s their team and I want to see these guys have success.”