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Hawkins a long way from comfort zone as Colorado coach

Hotel Hawkins is closed. Its only client, one who faithfully lodged there for several months, no longer needs it. The air mattress that served as its primary amenity is deflated, rolled up and stored away.

For a man constantly in search of something outside his comfort zone, the hotel — really just the mattress and bedding inside a Colorado football office — represented a temporary easy fix.

It's exactly the opposite of what Dan Hawkins is hoping to do at Colorado.

"Actually, it was quite comfortable. You work until you can't work no more, take 30 seconds to blow it up and get some good bedding. It's not bad at all," Hawkins said. "It doesn't do you any good to stay at a hotel. You're paying money just to sleep. You're not doing anything there. It's just as easy."

Prior to his family arriving from Boise earlier this month and renting a home in Boulder, Hawkins didn't leave the office at night.

He worked until around midnight, took less than a minute to get his bed ready and slept for about six hours. In the morning, he'd wake up, undo the bed, deflate the mattress and get back to the task of turning Colorado into a respected football program — on and off the field.

It's the toughest task of his career.

And one he'll conquer.

He will succeed in earning victories and establishing a disciplined program.

Why? Because this is what he does. Sure, every situation is different, but the same overall philosophy that served him at tiny Willamette and Boise State will again produce results at Colorado, which concludes its first spring practice under Hawkins with a Saturday scrimmage.

He will continue to dispense his philosophical advice, which borders on corny but remains highly effective. He will continue to pay attention to the smallest details with the belief that solving small problems prevents them from becoming larger issues.

"We're pushing away from the shore and getting going. It's about putting the oar in your hands and starting to row. It's a very vibrant opportunity. I see a ton of potential," he said. "Let's head out and start rowing the boat. Get out in some clean water and go."

That sounds exactly like the Dan Hawkins that helped catapult the Boise State program to conference supremacy and onto the national radar.

And Hawkins, as expected, is showing no sign of letting complacency creep in now that he's landed a big-time job in the Big 12.

His family won't let him.

His daughter Brittany, 19, convinced him to try skydiving during Colorado's spring break. Despite his concerns, Hawkins — accompanied by daughters Brittany and Ashley, 21 — jumped out of a plane at more than 10,000 feet in Southern California.

"I wouldn't say I'm afraid of heights, I just don't necessarily like them," Hawkins said.

The video of the jump is on the Colorado Web site.

"Brittany spearheaded the whole thing. She got me. Her quote was, 'Dad, if you don't do it, everything you tell your guys doesn't mean a thing,' " Hawkins said. "She went right for the heart there."

After a month of preparing himself mentally, Hawkins said he handled the experience like a pro, even though the plane sputtered and stopped on its first try on the runway, and took the leap without hesitation when it was his time to jump.

The experience will provide another lesson for his players.

"It's amazing the power of the mind. People say all the time, 'I could never do that.' You could do it. You could. If you allowed your mind to get right," Hawkins said. "That's how life is. You could do it. If you really wanted to do it, you could do it."

That's why Hawkins will be successful with the Buffaloes, whose image was tarnished by a recent recruiting scandal under former coach Gary Barnett and who finished last season with four losses by a combined score of 149-32. He hasn't considered anything but success.

Nor has he considered the past.

"Everybody is just going, 'Let's go and let's move on here,' " Hawkins said.

Moving on under Hawkins means first cleaning up the details.

"It's like moving into a new house, you paint some rooms and change some carpet," he said. "It's everything. It's picking up the trash, it's how you're dressed, it's getting to the goal line, it's doing 10 push-ups instead of nine."

It's about finding ways to escape your comfort zone every day.

And sleeping well at night — wherever you are.

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