MISSOULA — As an elementary school-age boy, Robby Hauck would stand on the stairs at the end of his family’s row in Section 124 of Washington-Grizzly Stadium to ensure his view of his team would be perfect.
Anyone who listened would hear the boy talking to no one in particular or anyone who would listen, giving his analysis, commentary and sometimes even his suggestions as the Montana football team on the field earned the reputation of juggernaut in the Big Sky Conference.
“Watching those games was everything I looked forward to during the week,” Hauck said a decade later. “I remember each game from that time fairly well. I remember who we played in the playoffs in 2008 or 2009, all the comebacks.”
By the time he was 12, Hauck had to move away, leaving the place he was born. Of course, Robby Hauck is the son of Bobby Hauck, the UM head coach who led the Griz to 80 wins and seven Big Sky Conference championships between 2003 and 2009 before bolting to UNLV as Robby was entering sixth grade. Bobby’s first stint at Montana also served as the time Robby Hauck first became indoctrinated with the game that has captivated many of the men in the Hauck family.
“I remember in 2008 when we came out in the throwback copper and gold uniforms in the Brawl of the Wild just because of everybody’s reaction, no one knew,” Hauck said. “All the playoff games in 2009, I remember at halftime of the South Dakota State game, we were down I don’t know how many scores but a lot. The stadium was empty. There was no one there. And we came back (from 41-14 to win 61-48).
“The Appalachian State win, playing in the snow, beating Armanti Edwards, who is a legend who then played in the NFL, that was pretty cool.”
From age five until the brink of middle school, Robby watched as Montana dominated its opponents physically with a fearsome, relentless style that gave he Griz a sharp advantage, particularly in front of the usually frenzied Washington-Griz crowds. Robby dreams of someday playing in the hallowed venue representing for a football program that is quite literally in his blood.
Bobby Hauck started his second stint leading his alma mater in December. Robby Hauck transferred to the team he grew up rooting on in January. By July, Montana learned the NCAA would provide a waiver allowing Robby to play this fall after redshirting during the 2017 season at Northern Arizona.
By Montana’s season opener against Northern Iowa, Hauck was one of UM’s starting safeties, racking up six tackles in his debut. By the opening of Big Sky Conference play September 22 against Sacramento State, Hauck was running out of the Washington-Grizzly tunnel wearing a similar copper and gold throwback jersey as the one Montana wore in a 35-3 shellacking of Montana State 10 years prior, helping Montana to a 41-34 win over Sacramento State.
“This season has truly been a dream come true,” he said during his press conference debut at UM on Monday afternoon. “I’ve had so much fun. I’ve never had an experience like this before and I’m so happy I got to play this year. So far, everything has been pretty smooth.”
In last week’s 48-28 win at Cal Poly, Hauck continued showing he has rounded into one of the most fearless and productive safeties in the league already. He piled up 17 tackles against the Mustangs, giving him 48 this season already. Hauck is second in the league in total tackles, trailing teammate Dante Olson’s torrid pace by 31 tackles.
“Cal Poly is a really, really physical, well-coached, disciplined team and it was just a fist fight the whole game,” Hauck said. “That’s the kind of football I like to play and that’s the type of football our coaches preach here, that brand of football. It was a blast, probably my favorite game I’ve played in honestly so far.”
At 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, Hauck is hardly the physically imposing safety that senior teammate Reid Miller is. He’s not the enforcer like Sac State All-Big Sky senior Mister Harriel. Hauck is an instinctual player with exceptional burst, a nose for the football and a penchant for contact.
“He’s been impressive and he’s shown that he has some ability that is big time,” UM safeties coach Shann Schillinger, a first-team All-Big Sky selection at Montana in 2008 and 2009, said during an interview last March. “He’s a guy who can run around and hit. That’s what we are looking for in this system. He still has things he can improve on but he’s going to be a really good player in this league if we continue to bring him along.”
Hauck’s ability to recognize things quickly and react without hesitation has helped him continue leading Montana’s tackling barrage. Early in the season, he struggled in coverage, giving up a few noticeable big plays. That portion has improved as well.
“He’s got a great knack for being around the ball and that’s something you can’t coach,” said Schillinger, who played in the NFL for four seasons after his sixth round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft. “That’s instinctive and he’s done a really good job. That’s why we like him. He’s a guy who runs and does a great job of finding the football, getting up on the ball. You can’t have enough of those guys.”
Being able to recognize things quickly without hesitation has helped Hauck post at least seven tackles in all but one start during Montana’s 4-1 start. He led the team with 11 tackles in UM’s lone loss at Western Illinois and his 17 stops against Cal Poly ranked second only because Olson had a historic game with 24 total tackles.
Some of Hauck’s talents can be attributed to his life surrounded by football players and coaches. Robert Lawrence Hauck Sr. is a member of the Montana Coaches Hall of Fame for his time as the head football coach in Big Timber before serving for many years as the athletic director at Missoula Loyola. Robert “Bobby” Lawrence Hauck Jr. dove into college football coaching for the first time 30 years ago on Don Read’s staff at Montana. Now Robert Lawrence Hauck III is the first of the namesake to play football at Montana.
Robert Sr.’s brother, Tom Hauck, coached defensive line for Bobby during his first stint as head coach at UM. Bobby’s brother, Tim Hauck, was an All-American safety who went on to play 13 seasons in the NFL despite his — sound familiar? — diminutive size. Tim is now the safeties coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I’ve always followed the game, more specifically my dad’s teams, where he’s coached and it’s not something I thought I had a better grasp on than others,” Robby Hauck said. “But I started being told that I knew more than average people when I was a kid. I think just understanding the game in general is important and you can definitely use that as an edge. That’s something I use on the field today.”
Saturday, Montana guns for its third straight win to open league play with a struggling Portland State team coming to Washington-Griz. The game will begin the proverbial second half of the season for the Griz as both Haucks are sure to play roles in helping Montana snap an unprecedented two-year streak missing the playoffs.
“That’s the goal is to try to have similar success as when I was a kid and I grew up around that and it’s something I want to be a part of,” Hauck said in an interview in March. “We want to win Big Sky Conference championships like we used to and that’s something I want to be a part of.”
During spring football, Bobby Hauck said he’s never coached Robby “at all in any way” until he joined the Griz, “which has been kind of funny”, the head coach added.
“I don’t notice him much. I try to watch them all,” Bobby said in April. “Usually I come out to practice to have a specific group to have my eye on. If there’s something I want to see or certain periods where I want to work certain things, we do it. He’s had some good plays where he shows up and I notice he’s in on the tackle. Other than that, it’s been pretty business like.
“When he was growing up, I don’t think it would’ve worked,” Hauck said. “It would not have been a match made in heaven, for sure. Maybe the other side of that coin.”
Now that Robby is older — he turns 21 on December 2 — Bobby has been able to enjoy the experience of being a part of the same team a little more.
“It’s been fun,” Hauck said. “For the entire family, it’s been great being home. Having him in the locker room has been enjoyable. I don’t coach him much. That falls on some other guys. They are bringing him along well. It’s been good and it’s been fun to watch him grown along with our football team.”
Photos by Brooks Nuanez and Jason Bacaj. All Rights Reserved.