It was believed that if new Irish Head Coach Charlie Weis had looked to retain any of Willingham's former coaches, Denbrock would have been right at the top of the list due to his reputation of being a high-energy coach who was also popular with his players. But it didn't take much coaxing from Willingham to get Denbrock to Montlake.
"He shows guys the right way to go about living their lives, not only the right way to win football games," Denbrock said of his boss.
Of all the coaches Willingham has retained, only Denbrock has the interesting distinction of having coached arena football. For the two years prior to joining Willingham in Palo Alto, Denbrock was in Buffalo, coaching the Buffalo Destroyers of the AFL.
"It's a little bit like what the Washington basketball fans are experiencing right now - wide open scoring, excitement, non-stop action," he said when asked about coaching football indoors. "We want to take elements from some of that and put it into (Husky) stadium on Saturdays. It helped in my development. I coached on both sides of the ball. You get a unique perspective."
Understanding the frenetic pace of AFL play will certainly come in handy for Denbrock in the coming weeks, as he not only learns more about the current players at Washington, but he also tries to recruit some more players to help bring the Huskies back to prominence.
"I have watched some of them on tape," Denbrock said when asked about the current crop of trench dawgs. "When we were preparing for the Insight Bowl I got a chance to watch Washington against Oregon State. I think there are a lot of quality players here already and we're going to recruit some more to go with them. I think there's talent here we can work with to have the success that everybody wants."
With a full crop of freshmen linemen having used their redshirt year in 2004, Denbrock is grateful to the previous UW staff for filling the cupboard before they left. "It's huge, getting that maturity and getting a year in the weight room is going to pay big dividends down the road," he said.
And just maybe - maybe - in a few years Denbrock will be talking about the line class of 2004 as the group that helped propel the Huskies to a Rose Bowl win over those dreaded Wolverines. After all, when talking about college football tradition is a good thing, perhaps the best of things.
And no good thing ever dies.
Mike Denbrock Coaching Resume:
Year(s) School/Team Assignment 1986-1987 Grand Valley State Graduate Assistant (Tackles/Tight Ends) 1988-1989 Michigan State Graduate Assistant (Quarterbacks/Receivers/Offensive Line) 1990-1991 Illinois State Offensive Line (tackles, tight ends) 1992-1995 Grand Valley State Offensive Coordinator /Quarterbacks/Receivers 1996-1998 Grand Valley State Defensive Coordinator /Linebackers 1999-2000 Buffalo Destroyers Assistant Head Coach /Defensive Coordinator/Lines 2001 Stanford Offensive Line (tackles, tight ends) 2002-2004 Notre Dame Offensive Line (tackles, tight ends)