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Monday, August 18, 2008

The Legend of...Tim Hauck

“The Legend of” is a series of articles compiling athletes who may appear forgettable but have forever etched themselves into the mind of at least one fan.

When hearing the name Tim Hauck, most people aren’t flooded with memories of his 6 forced fumbles, 1 interception, dependable attitude, hard hitting style or 379 tackles. Actually, when you mention Tim Hauck to the football knowledgeable, most will only remember one play.

But those who knew Tim Hauck, or watched him play realized that whatever Hauck had, he’d give to you. Guaranteed.

Tim Hauck played 14 seasons, totaling 183 games for seven different franchises, the Patriots, Packers, Broncos, Seahawks, Colts, Eagles and 49ers. He served as a starting safety, backup defensive back, special teams player and veteran leader for a Philadelphia Eagles team that needed each of those parts to accomplish the model franchise they’ve become today.

In 1999, Hauck served as the starting strong safety in Andy Reid’s first year. He was an integral part of a solid defense and noted of rookie Donovan McNabb; "I knew Donovan would be special, because I played with the Colts when Peyton (Manning) was a rookie. That year (1998) Manning was thrown to the wolves, leading the league in interceptions. Both rookies had great size, and a calm pocket presence. And McNabb's ability to elude tacklers as a rookie in practice jumped out at me." 1

That season was also the last for Hall of Fame Wide Receiver Michael Irvin, something Hauck took part in, though its important to note its something he doesn’t revel in. "First of all, I think a few Eagles fans put me on a pedestal, because everybody hated the guy. But my intent was never to hurt him," suggested Hauck. "I saw him run a slant route, and when I went to tackle him he actually ducked under me and I saw his head go into the turf. I barely got a piece of him. And the league never once fined me for that hit on him.”1

Hauck moved into a backup role in 2000, as a fiery Eagles team marched into the playoffs and cemented their status as a rising elite team. The highlight of his season included a crucial onside kick recovery in the 26-23 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But the safety's favorite moment occurred in 2001, when the upstart Eagles bullied the Chicago Bears in Soldier field in the icy cold of January 33-19. Hauck’s highlight was forcing a fumble late in the game and closing out any hope the Bears had and leading them into the first of many NFC title game appearances.

Hauck retired after his 2003 season with the 49ers. He then went on to join his brother, Bobby, at the University of Montana serving as a special assistance for the safeties and later becoming the defensive backs coach. After serving one year as the secondary coach, Hauck was offered the opportunity to serve in the same position under Rick Neuheisel’s new staff at UCLA.

But to this fan, Tim Hauck will always be remembered as a tough player, someone who would do whatever is asked and, of course, as the man who ended Michael Irvin’s career. I had an opportunity to exchange some e-mails with Hauck regarding his playing days with the Eagles, as well as his current coaching opportunities:

You began your career in 1990 as a New England Patriot, but really from 90-94 in you were in Green Bay and eventually starting in your last year there. Like most players, you had to work hard to get into that position, even while facing some adversity. Most players, however, talk about one thing and that's there "welcome to the NFL moment." What was yours?

There were a few moments early in my career that made me open my eyes and say "wow", you are now in the NFL! The first regular season game I played in was vs. the Bills. In the first quarter, we were in a two deep defense. I cruised into my drop (using a smooth back pedal). A moment later James Loften is about 10 yards behind me. Thank God the QB (I believe it was Jim Kelly) didn't find him. My career could have been over before it ever started. This is when I realized, Tim, you are not at Montana and it's not the preseason anymore - welcome to the NFL.

In 1998, you had, up until that time, your best pro season with the Indianapolis Colts and then signed with freshly minted head coach, Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles on April 15th of 1999. Why did you go with the Eagles and what did Reid provide you that (seemingly) made such a mark? What was the plan that you had to "buy into?"

When I left the Colts, I left with a bitter taste in my mouth. I was coming off my best season and the contract they had offered me was basically a minimum base salary deal. Plus, they had gone out and signed another safety for big money. Don't get me wrong, I loved Indianapolis and appreciate the opportunity Coach Mora gave me, but the writing was on the wall and it was time to move. Coach Reid and the Eagles made me a nice contract offer and the promise to be able to compete for a starting job. This was the best decision I made in my NFL career. Andy put together a ver
y competitive football team, and Jim Johnson and Steve Spagnola were awesome coaches to work with. I loved Philadelphia and the fans treated me very well (I think they could relate to a blue collar player like myself). Last, but not least, my teammates were incredible. The chemistry in that locker room was amazing.

That 1999 season was a fateful one for you and I'd be remiss to not at least ask a few questions about "the play" you are probably most famous for. On that cold October day at the Vet you made a play that would not just go down as the end of an era, but now lives in infamy right next to th
e booing of Santa Claus. Do you remember the play (would you mind describing it and what your were thinking), what did you think of the fans reaction and how do you feel about it now? Have you spoken to Michael Irvin since then?

The play Michael Irvin got hurt on, was a very basic pass route. He was running a shallow slant route and I got a great break on the ball. I got such a good break, I thought I was going to end up with a huge hit, but he knew I was coming too. He tried to go down and go under the blow. Instead of a huge hit, I just ended up with a glancing blow that knocked his head into the Vet turf. The next thing you know, he was not getting up. You don't expect any play to be career ending and you hate to see players get hurt. I don't feel bad about the play. It was a clean hit. I was just playing football the way its suppose to be played - fast and physical. I have not seen him since. I wish him the best. He seems to be doing well. I hear him on Sunday morning tv like everyone else.

Does Michael Irvin talk more or less than he does on TV now?

Same guy, same talk.

I'm sure the '99 incident with Michael Irvin isn't exactly something you revel in (a hit's a hit, but you never want to really end someone's career), but you've had some other shinning moments, from recovered onside kicks to fateful forced fumbles, but what's the one play, you took part in, that really sticks out in your mind as your moment in the sun?

There are two plays that stand out in my mind. The first one was a playoff game vs. the Bears (I believe it was in 2001). I had a great hit on a kick-off early in the 4th quarter. It created a fumble, we
recovered it, and this sealed our victory and a spot in the NFC Championship game. The next play was against the Saints in 2001 or 2002. I remember it was my first start of that season. Joe Horn didn't warm-up with his teammates - he followed me around the whole pregame (and talked more trash than any one human can talk). Early in the first half, I got one of my best hits of my career on him. He did not play much the rest of the game. Justice was served!

Who's the guy you hated playing against the most?

Barry Sanders - he was amazing

You've since moved on from the NFL, first heading to Montana to work with your brother and more recently heading over the Southern California to work
with Rick Neuheisel with the goal of bringing UCLA football back to its old prominence (Freddie Mitchell aside…heh). What are you hoping to bring to UCLA and what kind of goals do you and your group (DBs) have going into your first season at the Rose Bowl? Any chance you and Neuheisel can show Pete Carroll who the real team is?

The move to UCLA was a good move for my career - even though it was extremely hard for me to leave Montana. The biggest thing I have been preaching to the safeties at UCLA is attitude. You must be the toughest and nastiest players on the field. Playing fast, hard, and physical goes a long way. We have a ways to go to catch USC, but were working on it.

Tim Hauck is now preparing his boys to take the PAC-10 back to the True Blue and Gold. As secondary coach, he's making no promises but believes they're headed in the right direction. The Bruins first game will take place on Labor Day at 2PM EST in the Rose Bowl against the Tennessee Volunteers. - Where are they Now: Tim Hauck


Reverend Paul Revere said...

Tim Hauck is the man. Excellent work here.

Greg said...


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