MISSOULA – When Bobby Hauck was signed for his second stint as head coach of the Montana Grizzlies in 2018, his son Robby approached him with an idea.
As a player at what was then the Big Sky Conference school in northern Arizona, he wanted to reunite with his father and return to his family’s hometown. He wanted to be a grizzly.
Bobby wasn’t sure about the suggestion.
“I asked him if I could come along … and he kind of backed off a bit and wasn’t quite sure how that would be for me, which is understandable as I’m the head coach’s son,” Robby said. “But we talked a little bit about it and what it all entails and I was willing to take that leap of faith and so was he.”
They knew they were taking a rare path, a path that would offer them the opportunity of a lifetime. But never could they have imagined that all this would transcend in their time together.
It’s filled with wins. In their time together in Montana, the team has won 35-15 and made the playoffs twice. It’s filled with success. Robby broke the program’s all-time tackle record this year.
But it was all business. They would not let their family ties get in the way of the team’s common goal and themselves. For this reason and since their time is not over yet, they have not thought about an inevitable end.
“I haven’t really thought about it because week in and week out I’m working on preparing for the games, trying to come up with game plans and practicing,” Bobby said. “I don’t really have time to think about things like that during the season, but I know it will be different when he’s not playing for us.”
The same goes for Robby, who has yet to take the time to reflect on his place on the all-time tackle list. He knows there are “a lot of UM greats…who I think were probably better players than me” among them, but that’s about it for now.
“The record is something I’m proud of, but something I haven’t necessarily thought a ton about,” Robby said. “That’s probably something I’ll think about more when I’m done this season.”
But this one time, before their last Brawl of the Wild together, they tried to think for the first time.
In their initial reflections, the father-son duo brought their quotes back to the same idea: happiness to be together.
Both look at it as lovingly as possible, but from different perspectives. Bobby looks at it from the coach’s point of view.
Coaching is his job. He does. It wasn’t going to stop his son playing at the same level so this was literally the only way to see him play.
“It was really cool because I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see him play if he had gone somewhere else,” Bobby said.
For Robby, this may be the only time in the rest of his life that he will be with his father every day. Despite being a coach most of the time, he’s grateful for the experience because what he does next in his life and where he ends up is all a mystery.
Graduation means a job and a new life, but where those things will take place is all unknown. But wherever it is, there’s a good chance his dad isn’t involved every day.
“Being with him every day for the last six years is absolutely unique and I don’t think there will be another time in my life where that will be,” Robby said. “We both benefited from it. Little things like going into his office and talking about ball and talking about our opponents… those are things I will remember.”
After the team’s recent Senior Day game against Eastern Washington, they’ve had a little more time to reflect on all that has transpired over the past few years.
Robby, rightly the last senior called out of the tunnel to complete the class, had a longer than usual warm hug with Bobby before running onto the field. At that moment, moments from their shared history probably flashed through their brains.
“It sounds cliche, but it’s amazing how fast it goes,” Robby said. “It may be one last home game and the clock is ticking. You never know when the last time you’ll put those shoulder pads on. So it was a special moment. I can’t put it into words, but something I will remember forever.”
It was a father and son moment – not son and coach.
“It’s always good to see my dad here and there over the past few months,” Robby said. “That was probably one of those moments.”
Not the end
As one chapter of Robby’s remarkable time in Missoula draws to a close, a new one begins.
Whether his future work, relationships or aspirations take him to another place in the country, it will always be his home. His mother is from St. Ignatius, his grandparents moved back to the city almost a decade ago and his father trains here. Not to mention his uncle Tim who is a grizzly legend.
Time with family will always bring him back.
“After wins, I go to my parents’ house for a little bit and I usually have dinner with them and watch a few games with my dad…if we’re not doing that, we’re probably going fishing,” Robby said. “We have a big family dinner almost every Sunday. It’s great to see everyone.”
He will also no doubt always be a “proud alum who supports me in any way he can.”
Maybe one day he will even be involved in the program again. Whether monetary or back on the sidelines, the school would likely accept either form of support.
But near or far, as Robby says, the next six months are yet to be decided, he will bleed maroon and silver. His time as a gamer is coming to an end, but his time as a grizzly will last forever.
“It’s always there,” Bobby said. “They certainly always have that grizzly football tie.”