Sickafoose: McElwain renews faith in CSU football

Sickafoose
Sickafoose

Story correction: Kapri Bibbs attended Plainfield North High School in Plainfield, Ill. where he was recruited by former CSU head coach Steve Fairchild.

I bet you don’t doubt that he was the right man for the job now.

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Two years ago, Colorado State Athletic Director Jack Graham went on the hunt for the missing link between having his football program break through the ceiling of mediocrity it had been beneath for years and back into contention.

The answer lied in Tuscaloosa, Ala. within a member who was then putting in his fair share of effort to bringing home a National Championship title.

The target was set. Graham knew the offensive coordinator guiding quarterback phenom AJ McCarron and the rest of the Alabama offense to glory had exactly what it took to make the cut. And what he was looking for was somebody brave enough to step into a role where the work would be plentiful.

For the first time in years, CSU is more than just the no-name kid trying to prove to the rest of block they also are worth reckoning with — and it’s all thanks to head coach Jim McElwain.

Mac was one of the last ingredients needed to change the Rams’ losing ways and has restored faith back into a Colorado State football program that had remained absent since 2008 until now. Before bucking up and taking the reins, McElwain stood in front of a measly excuse of a football squad, staring into the struggles that rested in their eyes.

They ran deep in every player on the team. Fresh off of three-straight heartbreaking seasons that ended with a 3-9 record, it was clear the team needed more than just a leader.

Without question, nearly every single player on the roster has the utmost respect for McElwain. Sure, they know him and are aware of who he is, what he’s done; but the trust they surrender to Mac on a daily basis are based upon the investments he makes in every one of them.

“As I grew up, it was the joy of giving of yourself for the benefit of other,” McElwain responded after I asked him about being responsible for turning the Rams from nobody into somebody.

“So for me, the joy is seeing these guys; the people, the organizations, the university, the town, understand that it’s okay to be bold. It’s okay to be great, it’s okay to think ‘we’ve got a lot to offer, let’s go offer it,’ and that’s a good thing.”

One of the biggest factors for the revived success McElwain brings is a simple aspect of running a Division I football program that hasn’t been focused on in Fort Collins in recent years: recruitment.

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He remains looking at the next step, rather than dwelling on the one in front. It may be the inner-SEC inside McElwain, but it keeps him constantly on the prowl for the next building block to stack within the organization.

Case in point: Kapri Bibbs. You know, that one running back Mac corralled in from a junior college in Illinois? Well, 1,572 yards and 28 touchdowns later, it’s safe to say that was a good bet.

Considering the fact that this ticket to a bowl game is likely to boost future recruitment, the future looks bright for the Rams.

“It’s one of those deals that certain teams are in the club and certain teams aren’t,” McElwain said. “And guess what, we’ve got the secret knock to get in the alley door to get in with the rest of them.”

Behind its leader and the secret password, the CSU football team should expect to remain relevant for years to come.

Sports Editor Quentin Sickafoose can be reached at sports@collegian.com. His columns appear every Monday in the sports section of the Collegian. Follow him on Twitter @QSickafoose.