A lot can happen in 20 years.
However, in the fraternity of football, 20 years doesn't seem too far removed. Take Jack Dalton for example. Dalton, a 5'11 wide receiver for then head coach Don Brown at Plymouth State and now a state trooper in New Hampshire, remembers the man that has never changed. 20 years later, the love he held for his former head coach has remained unwavered.
From the first time he met Brown, Dalton knew what kind of coach he'd be.
"My greatest memory of him was probably my first impression of him the first time I ever met him," Dalton said. "It was the introduction, we met him as a coach, we were all kind of laid back. You know, college football players. He came into the meeting and right off the bat told us to sit up straight, take our hat off and from here on out it's going to be about academics. We're going to be disciplined football players.
"That was a really cool impression, kids are starving for discipline these days and so were we back then 20 years ago."
Fast-forward 20 years later and Dalton is following Brown's career trajectory extremely close.
People care about football in the New England area. You have Boston College and the New England Patriots. Being a Boston guy himself, Brown understood what it took to succeed in an area that is hungry for football success.
When the news broke that Brown would now be headed to Ann Arbor to be the defensive coordinator, Dalton knew that it was only a matter of time a loyal leader would find success.
"Well deserved," Dalton said of Brown's hiring. "I've watched him for years at every level and he's a winner. I can tell you first-hand that I've never seen a defensive coach like him, or a head coach like him, from my own experience. He's a great leader, very intense guy that's all about his players and all about the program he's working for."
Like many, it takes awhile for parents tough love and life lessons to sink in growing up. To recognize what a coach has been trying to instill in his players is somewhat similar. However, for Dalton, Brown was that father figure he had outside of home. Aside from his own father, Brown was there for him. He was there for everyone.
In short, there's not too many people in Dalton's life that taught the things Don Brown did in such a short moment of time.
"It took me a little while to figure this out," Dalton said. "Right away he brought leadership to our program. Just that father figure type of guy that a lot kids were looking for. I was telling somebody yesterday, which was kind of neat, outside of my own father I can't remember a guy that's done for me as far as teaching me lessons in life. As a police officer I've been in plenty of sticky situations in my career, there's some lessons he taught me like keeping cool under pressure, staying relaxing and keep calm. Just lifelong lessons that no other coach really brought to the table in little league or high school. Lessons that were unreplacable."
Brown was a running backfor Norwich University in the 1970s, he wasn't always a defensive minded player. Now, he is coming off one of his best coaching performances ever. Leading Boston College to one of the best defenses in the nation despite a 3-9 overall record during the 2015 season.
Dalton boasts that the Wolverines could be inheriting a multi-faceted coach.
"I'm convinced he could coach either side of the ball," Dalton said. "Everyone knew in college he could coach either side of the ball but he's just really turned himself into a defensive guru, just really incredible to watch. Just watching his blitz packages you're scratching your head going 'oh my goodness,' from every angle they're coming at you, it's incredible. I've really followed him and it's just incredible the stuff he does, he brings the best out of his players. Just fun to watch and everybody loves playing for him. Everyone I've talked to loves playing for him here. They're loyal as can be to this guy."
Despite not following U-M much this season, it doesn't take Dalton much to realize what the Wolverines will be getting in Brown. His test will be to make a Wolverine defense that was one of the nations best and try to make it even better.
Fortunately for U-M, there's one thing that Brown doesn't miss, Dalton says.
"I can say that he'll bring out the best in the players," Dalton said. "It doesn't matter if you're an undersized linebacker or undersized defensive lineman, he's going to find a spot for you. If you're a good player, he's going to find a spot for you on the field. That's for sure. He's not going to miss talent."