Expect Colorado State University’s new head football coach, Jim McElwain, to be a hot topic in August when NCAA football gets underway in Colorado. In “Forward Progress,” managing editor Lindsey B. Koehler looks at the changing face of Ram football and how hiring coach McElwain away from the University of Alabama was a key part of CSU’s grander plan to achieve more than just athletic success. Here, a scouting report on CSU’s “Coach Mac.”

Did You Know…

  • He was born in Missoula, Montana, in 1962. He has four older siblings, three sisters and a brother. Both of his parents were educators.
  • Basketball was his first love. His dad was a coach at the local high school, which meant that a young McElwain had access to the gym. Long, cold, Montana winters meant hours spent shooting hoops.
  • He played quarterback for Eastern Washington University, where he also earned a degree in education.
  • He is married to Karen, his college sweetheart. They have three children: JoHanna and Elizabeth attend the University of Alabama; Jerret will be a junior at Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins.
  • When Jerret was just six years old, his T-shirt accidentally caught fire. He sustained burns over large parts of his body and spent months in a hospital bed. He’s doing just fine today—he even plans to play linebacker for Rocky Mountain this fall. But the accident still clearly affects his father. Keeping the tragedy in mind grounds the coach and gives him perspective during trying times. “When you’ve watched your six-year-old son struggle in a burn unit,” the elder McElwain says, “it makes you realize that third-and-six just isn’t that important.”
  • Just days after winning a national championship with the University of Alabama Crimson Tide, McElwain began working more than 60 hours a week to get CSU’s football program in shape for the 2012 season.
  • He has three cell phones: One is from his early coaching days at Montana State, University of Louisville, and Michigan State; one is from his time in Alabama; and a new one for his gig with CSU. He can’t seem to find a way to combine the mobiles, so he just hangs on to all three. He calls the oldest “the Bat Phone.”
  • He coached for one year in the NFL, for the Oakland Raiders.
  • His favorite pastime is grilling.
  • According to his wife, Karen, McElwain is an above-average swing dancer and has a beautiful voice. “He does a great rendition of ‘King of the Road,’” she says with a laugh.