In this edition of “Blast From the Bronco Past,” we will be interviewing former Boise State quarterback Mike Coughlin. Coughlin played for the Broncos from 2006-2010 and was a part of two Fiesta Bowl teams. In this interview, we discussed his college football career and how things have changed with transfers becoming a major part of the sport.
Mike, Bronco Nation would love to know what you are up to today? How is life treating you?
I first just want to thank you for reaching out; I have a lot of love for Bronco Nation! Life is treating me well. I've lived in Connecticut with my wife and 4 kids for the last 6 years as of this week. We have two boys, and our two youngest daughters were born here. I commute into Manhattan every day for work as a Global Merchandiser for Nike Underwear. I was always into fashion and was privileged to work for Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein before the role I’m currently in. Was a transition moving here, but I always tell people that my time in Boise is what prepared me for this weather. Don’t think we could have done it if we never lived there. I get the excitement of New York City during the week, and the calm of Connecticut on the weekends. We spend a lot of time outdoors here when it’s not freezing cold like it currently is. People are always shocked when I tell them my commute to work is 1:45 each way, so we try and spend as much time as possible as a family when I’m home. The boys and I are either at the skate park riding around or at the beach as a family when it gets warm.
Describe the recruiting process for you. What led to you choosing Boise State?
I started to get recruited by Boise the summer after my junior year of high school. I was invited to join the high school camp by Coach Hawk and Coach Pete. I’ll always remember the night we arrived to Boise for the camp. Our flight was delayed, so we didn’t get to the hotel until after midnight, and then at about 3 AM the fire alarm went off and everyone had to evacuate. The start of that trip wasn’t ideal. Warmed up with Kaepernick that morning who made sure to use that opportunity to throw every ball as hard as possible to show off his arm strength, even though we were 10 yards away. I had a good few days of camp and was offered not too long after getting back home to San Diego. That summer I had been to a few other camps (Colorado, U of A, Cal) but there was something different about Boise. I had another offer at that time from UTEP, but once I received the offer from BSU, I committed pretty quickly. I was able to take my official visit that fall which was where I got to meet the team and spent a lot of time with Bush. The visit was great and really cemented everything for me. Coach Pete was the reason I wanted to be a Bronco, and even though it was only a few weeks after my visit, when Coach Hawk left I remained committed. Coach Pete took over as the head coach, and Harsin became the OC. At that point, I knew there were a lot of good things to come.
Mike, you were a part of what is widely considered the greatest team in Boise State history in 2010. What made those 2009 and 2010 teams so special?
I was on a lot of special teams during my career. Our record from 2006-2010 when I was there was 61-5 which is unreal when you think about it. Our first Fiesta Bowl win during my redshirt year was an amazing experience. It will forever be mentioned as one of the greatest games in college football history, and I will always be grateful to have been part of that. Our 2009 season was special because it started with beating Oregon at home and then ended with a win vs TCU. It was our 2nd Fiesta Bowl win and felt like redemption for the 1 point loss we had to them the year before. 2010 was special, because even after the heartbreaking loss to Nevada, the team rallied for those 2 remaining games. I think during my career, the team’s ability to battle adversity is what made them so special. We had a lot of guys on these teams that were extremely talented and did great things at the next level, but I attribute a lot to the coaching staff that we had. I feel that in some respects, because of the success we had during those years, our expectations for the program got greater and greater.
You backed up some great quarterbacks. How did you guys push each other to improve? What was that quarterback room like?
I was fortunate to have played with a lot of great QBs during my career: Z, Tharp, Bush, Kellen, Joe, Grant. Guys that will go down as some of the best in school history, and in Kellen’s case, one of the best in the history of the sport. The room was interesting from the start, I will say that, but I think we all worked well together. We were all competitive and pushed each other during practice. There was something on the line every Thursday when we would do our trash can fade drill, and even Coach Pete would come over and get in on the action. There were a lot of football smart guys in the room during my career, so it’s no surprise Kellen and Bush have had the opportunities and success in their coaching careers. As weird as it may sound, having been a career backup, at least I backed up the all-time winningest quarterback in college football history. Kellen is a great friend, and I always appreciate getting to see him when the Cowboys play the Giants every season.
You were a rare case of a quarterback who stuck it out. Did you ever consider transferring? What do you think about the constant movement in college football today?
You know, I think about this question a lot. It’s coming up on 10 years since my senior season, but I feel at peace with my decision to stay. It’s normally the first question anyone who meets me and talks about my career asks, so I’ve thought about it a lot but more so since I graduated. It was before there was an established transfer portal that empowered student athletes to make it known their desire to transfer. When Kellen was named the starter, I didn’t really have anyone in my life that understood the transfer process, so it wasn’t something I knew a lot about at that time. I think when it comes to transferring, there’s always a risk that comes with it, and I don’t think that I got to the point where I wanted to test that. My entire family (parents and 2 older brothers) moved to Boise after my redshirt year, so I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t also a part in deciding to not leave. My now wife was supportive of any decision I ultimately decided to make. I felt that I had the physical gifts to be able to play at other schools, but I decided to stay and use my abilities when and where I could at Boise State. I’ve thought a lot about how/if my life would be different if I pursued transferring, but at this point it doesn’t do me any good. When I look at where I am right now in life, I wouldn’t change anything, so if that means it took having the college career I had in order to get to this point, then so be it. My wife and I got married the summer before my senior year, and my oldest son was born in Boise, so my connection there will always be more than just school and football. I will also note that it is rare to have never started a game at the quarterback position but still have the opportunity to sign with an NFL team after I graduated. While short lived, I will always be honored and proud of that experience.
It is always fun to hear former players talk about Coach Pete. What kind of impact did he have on you? Were you surprised to hear that he was stepping away?
Coach Pete was the reason I wanted to be a Bronco, and why I stayed committed when coach Hawk left for Colorado. He had the rare ability to push guys to play at their full potential but also was able to connect to them as human beings. He always would talk about developing his players into great men which I feel is something that has stuck with me to this day. I always felt like he cared about me as a person first and foremost. Everything after that was secondary. I still remember him letting me use his office to set up a blow up mattress and my Xbox during fall camp to relax during some of the breaks between practices that we had. This was before the new facilities so finding a comfortable space at that time was at a premium. It was either nap on the floor in the locker room, or fight for space on the 3 couches we had, which in all honesty after a practice in the summer was not something you wanted to be on. So I posted up in Coach Pete’s office. He’d be in there watching film from practice that morning while I was in there playing Call of Duty. In retrospect I probably should have been watching film too but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I don’t think I’m surprised that Coach Pete is stepping away because I feel like I can relate to a lot of what he said. When he talked about the stress and anxiety of the game pushing away the positivity and optimism, I think that goes for a lot of people, both coaches and players. He’s obviously been doing it for a long time, but I think the nature of college football tends to have that effect on people regardless of how much time you’ve been doing it. People always ask me if I miss the game, and in most cases I don’t because of the stress and anxiety I had, and I didn’t even start so I’m sure it’s only amplified in a lot of other guys cases. I miss the guys and a lot of the fun times during that experience that weren’t always directly related to football. I respect Coach Pete’s decision because I know it’s not easy for him to step away from coaching, but I can understand why with knowing how important his family is to him.
Do you still follow Boise State football? If so, who will you be keeping an eye on this year? Thoughts on Hank Bachmeier?
I will always have love for Boise State, but I’m not going to lie some of these 10:30pm ET start times are not the easiest to stay awake for. I would say that’s one of the downsides of living on the east coast. I was able to get out to the game at UConn a few years ago but it’s been tough to get back out to Boise for a home game.
I was really impressed with all the quarterbacks last year. Hank going into Tallahassee and winning after being down by 18 really showed what he’s capable of. Chase and Jaylon being able to step in later in the year without really missing a beat is what Coach Pete and Hars always talked about. Carrying the flag was always something they stressed. Injuries are inevitable, but it’s the teams who have guys that carry the flag when someone goes down that are the ones that end up being successful and I think that’s exactly what happened last year. I think Hank has potential to do a lot of great things in his career and I feel confident that Harsin will push him, and everyone, to play at a high level.
What was your favorite memory in your time as a Bronco?
I think as cliché as it sounds, I would say the first FiestaBbowl. That really set the precedent to how Boise State is viewed to this day and the standard to which the program will always hold itself. It will go down as one of the greatest games in college football history. Running out onto the field after the Statue of Liberty plays was one of the more surreal moments in my career. To have taken down a powerhouse in Oklahoma who had one of the greatest running backs ever on the team took a few days to process. I still get goosebumps every time I see the highlights of that game on TV or someone shares them on social media. That game will forever have a lasting impact on both the players and the fans of Boise State.
Any parting words for Bronco Nation?
I’ve met a lot of amazing people thanks to my time in Boise. Players, coaches, and fans. There’s a deep love in the city and state for this program unlike most places, so I just want to thank everyone that makes Bronco Nation so special.
That’s it for this edition of “Blast From the Bronco Past.” Be sure to stay tuned for next week’s edition.