Yes, Ron McBride’s Hawaiian vacation is still in play.
The trip that Mac originally scheduled in February as a way of occupying himself in retirement from football was postponed when he became the Utah Blaze’s offensive line coach, but it remains in the works. “We’ve got everything set,” McBride promised. “All I’ve got to do is get there.”
But wait. There’s more … football.
To the surprise of absolutely no one — including Vicky McBride, who should be anointed the coaching wife of the century — Mac is adding one little detail to his summer agenda. Once the Blaze have finished their Arena League season, he’s intending to immerse himself in the Atlanta Falcons training camp, observing practices, watching film and working with old friends who coach the team’s offensive line.
You have a better suggestion of how to spend two weeks in August?
“That’s the one experience I haven’t had,” said McBride, 72. “That would pretty much cap off the whole thing.”
So that’s the story, then: The chance to be involved in an NFL camp would write a nice ending of McBride’s career, a journey through all levels of football, highlighted by a combined 20 years as the head coach of Utah and Weber State and including this season’s stint with the Blaze.
Yeah, right. Watching him conduct drills with the Blaze linemen, with his shirt untucked, clapping in response to displays of good technique and swinging his fist in disgust after a bad play, makes it impossible to picture him anywhere else.
“I always have liked practice,” he said afterward, smiling in satisfaction.
Actually, he was hurting that day, stung by a sack (and fumble) that one of his linemen allowed in the previous game, costing the Blaze a late scoring chance in a 64-61 loss to San Antonio. We all should have known better than to imagine Mac merely dabbling in this job, giving himself something to do for a couple of hours a day.
Oh, no. Blaze coach Ron James once had that notion, suggesting that McBride could miss an occasional road game, for example. Mac stopped him right there, saying, “Let me just tell you something: When I do something, I do it all-out.”
So he’s prowling the turf of the Spence Eccles Field House on the Utah campus, where he once was a line coach, then returned as head coach, was fired 10 years ago and, in April, was inducted into the school’s Crimson Club Hall of Fame.
“Kind of strange,” he said of working in the facility next door to his old office, which recently was demolished to make way for the Utes’ new headquarters. “The first time I walked in here, I said, ‘How’d I get back here, again?’ ”
He’s even coaching linemen Ed Ta’amu and Lauvale Sape, mainstays of his 2001 team that beat USC in the Las Vegas Bowl.
To them, he’s the same, old Mac. To those just getting to know him, he’s a marvel.
“Incredible,” said Blaze lineman Dan DeMaster. “He always brings a lot of fire. Being 72 years old, that man’s jacked up every day. He’s a fun guy to play for. … He really knows how to get his players going. Anything that you have a problem with, he’s already fixed it with someone else.”
The Blaze (7-5) recovered from that loss to San Antonio with an impressive offensive effort Saturday at Kansas City, as quarterback Tommy Grady passed for a franchise-record 436 yards in a 55-45 win. The linemen did their part, responding as McBride knew they would.
So the Blaze are fighting for a playoff spot in late July, which could affect McBride’s Atlanta itinerary. That’s OK. Either way, it’s football. Hawaii will always be there, anyway.