By Jim Martin
The news resounded throughout the Colorado football world recently: assistant coach Brian Cabral (Rec’79) will not be on the sideline for the 2013 football season — a place he has been since 1989, a career extending more than 23 years. The 1990 National Championship team has finally ended.
This is something like John Elway or Patrick Roy moving on, except for the highlight films and they voluntarily retired.
Brian started with the CU football program first as a player in 1974. He played through the 1977 season and was named captain in his final year. That season CU won the Big Eight championship and the 1978 Orange Bowl.
In the 1978 NFL draft he was taken in the fourth round by the Atlanta Falcons, went on to play for the Green Bay Packers, and rounded out his playing career with the Chicago Bears. Brian was on the 1985 Bears team that won the1986 Super Bowl. He was captain of the special teams that year.
The first two years after retiring as a player, he coached with the Purdue Boilermakers. Then he returned to Boulder in 1989 to become a graduate assistant coach. Since then he held many different coaching positions for CU, even serving as an interim head coach for three games, scoring a 2-1 record.
As an assistant, he served five head coaches — Bill McCartney, Rick Neuheisel, Gary Barnett, Dan Hawkins and finally Jon Embree (Comm’88).
Brian knew how to be respectful to coaches, players, athletic officials, parents and fans, without being fawning, arrogant or patronizing. That’s a lost art among coaches these days.
Brian coached great teams and outstanding athletes — CU football stars like Matt Russell (Comm’96), a ‘96 Butkus Award winner, Greg Biekert (Mktg’92), Ted Johnson (Comm’98), Chad Brown (Soc ex’94), Jashon Sykes (Ethn’02) and Jordon Dizon (Econ’11) to name just a few. Also largely due to Brian’s efforts CU was instrumental in recruiting Rashaan Salaam (Soc ex’96), the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner.
But what was even more remarkable about Brian’s career and his standing as a solid role model to the hundreds of athletes he coached is the fact that he stayed right where he was, at the University of Colorado, through good times and bad, to help make Colorado the best it could be.
Brian also authored a book, Second String Champion. In it, he shared his personal growth as a second string linebacker for the Chicago Bears. Even though Brian played second string for the Bears, he was no second string coach here at Colorado. The fact that five head coaches wanted him on their staff speaks volumes about his abilities. This is a coach who is tough when he had to be but always seen as a kind, gentle man. He set the standard for honesty, decency and humbleness, not only as a coach but also as a person.
It is not lost on me as a past CU Regent, nor should it be lost on anyone today, that much is owed to the hard work, passion and integrity of Brian Cabral. He is leaving a big space to fill on the next staff, but I for one am grateful to have known him and to have felt his immense contribution for 23 years to the University of Colorado family.
Godspeed Brian. We all hope to see you “down the road,” but hopefully not on the opposing Indiana State team’s sidelines.
Jim Martin served as a CU Regent.