Colorado HC Mel Tucker Recalls Moment His Team 'Bought In', How It's Paying Off

Tucker Was Hired As Buffaloes Head Coach In December

Zach Gelb
September 14, 2019 - 6:00 am
Colorado Buffaloes head coach Mel Tucker leaves the field at the end of the second quarter against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Folsom Field.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports


Mel Tucker was the new guy in town when he was hired as the University of Colorado's head football coach.

Tucker replaced Mike MacIntyre - CU's head coach for the past six seasons - in December after seeing his coaching career take him across professional and collegiate levels. For the first time in his career, Tucker was a head coach. There was no interim tag attached to his title, as was the case with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011. He then needed to implement his message to the Buffaloes after the team finished 2-7 last year. 

It isn't always an easy task for a team to easily adapt to a new coach's style and method. Tucker, however, recalled the exact moment the Buffaloes began trusting him as their head coach. He joined 'The Zach Gelb Show' to break down how the relationship was built over the team's fall camp. 

"Once the players recognized we had a consistent message, a consistent plan as a program and it wasn't going to change from day-to-day and we had architecture in place that has been proven to work," Tucker said. "We practice down on our lower fields in fall camp. We have to walk down a ramp across the boater creek. It's quite a walk down to the practice field. I told them during spring ball I said, 'After practice, when you guys start to run up this ramp back to the locker room to get the extra conditioning in then we'll have a football team.'

"During fall camp, I saw guys after practice instead of walking up the ramp they were jogging up the ramp - every guy getting that last bit of conditioning in to finish the practice. At that point, I knew that our guys have bought in."

The 47-year-old is off to a stellar start with the Buffaloes. After opening up the season with a win against Colorado State, the Buffaloes rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to shock Nebraska 34-31 in overtime. It marked Colorado's fourth-largest comeback in program history. 

"It's great when you can see it unfold right there during the game," Tucker said "And you can point back to certain plays, certain instances where mental toughness showed itself and we were able to handle adversity and momentum swings and players stepping up and making plays and executing in critical times. Those are all things we talk about on a day-to-day basis. We actually had an opportunity to do it in a game and we're able to come through in the clutch. So that reinforces the message."

Colorado's thrilling win left Tucker elated for the program. Quarterback Steven Montez threw for 375 yards and two touchdowns; K.D. Nixon caught a season-high 148 receiving yards. Tucker's "reap the rewards of hard work" mentality kept the Buffs' trending in the right direction. They even caught the attention of the latest Associated Press poll, where they collected 21 votes. 

"It's very gratifying to see a team to show that mental toughness and that type of relentless attitude to continue to fight and play and finish games like that," Tucker said. "The whole city of Boulder and all of our former players, alumni, supporters in the United States and around the world were pulling for us. You could feel it. You could feel it last Saturday in Boulder."

Click the audio player below to listen to Tucker's interview in its entirety.