ENGLEWOOD, Colo—From last Monday ‘til Thursday, the entire Denver Broncos roster gathered for Phase Two of their offseason workout program. The veterans mixed it up with the rookies and the coaches were allowed on the field with the players.
One of those coaches was Bill Kollar—the defensive line coach. As a former NFL player, Kollar coaches defense from the personal well of experience he brings to the table as a veteran, as well as his numerous years of coaching at the professional level.
His players find out quickly that one thing Kollar is not, is a big sweetheart. He’s a fiery competitor, who once wrestled a bear to make a few extra bucks. He’s intense and has the on-field cadence of a drill sergeant. Think Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from the classic film “Full Metal Jacket”.
However, for those who have seen that film, as hard as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman rode his new recruits in boot camp, he did it with a malevolent mien and not with his men’s best interest at heart. Kollar, on the other hand, might be hard, but there’s a method to his madness and his ultimate objective is to get the best out of his players, as Broncos defensive end Antonio Smith pointed out earlier this week.
”Bill wants a lot,” Smith said. “No matter who you are, he wants a lot. I think that really helped me out in Houston. That little extra drive and push—if you all haven’t noticed yet, he’s his own personality and he’s real fiery, so don’t put a microphone by him on the sideline, please. His style of coaching, some may not like and some may not agree with and other may take it personal, but I think that one thing that I found out is that in his heart he really wants to truly bring out the best of you that he can.”
Kollar’s approach can be abrasive at first and difficult for some guys to interpret, and it can take some getting used to. For Smith, who played under Kollar in Houston and was reunited with him when he signed with Denver as a free agent, it took him some time to digest Kollar’s intensity, but eventually, he realized that his old position coach had his best interest at heart.
”I think most relationships you build in life, the ones that mean something to you, are going to start off in a period where you are feeling each other out,” Smith said. “You might not like each other because you don’t understand each other, and then all of a sudden he knows who I am truly in the heart and I know who he is truly in the heart. I think that me and Bill, we had that one little altercation. I think it was like two days, and then (clap), we were like best friends.”
No matter how Kollar makes the sausage, at the end of the day, his unit gets the job done. His track record in Houston is replete with impressive production. As naturally gifted as J.J. Watt is, there’s no doubt that Kollar helped shape him into a perennial contender for Defensive Player of the Year.
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For the Broncos, the D-line unit has a lot on their plate. They have to learn the entire playbook, not just part of it, and execute and hold up at the point of attack. It can be a lot to take in and assimilate, especially for young guys, or even veterans learning a new system. Fortunately, Kollar puts in the extra work to make sure all the information and technique is sinking in.
”Bill is real good at doing extra, so while the rest of the team is out there learning half the defense, the D-Line has to know the whole playbook,” Smith said. “We’ve got everything down and he goes over it every day. After about the first two weeks, everybody pretty much got it.”
Bill Kollar is the type of coach who might rub some people wrong, but when it’s all said and done, he gets the job done, as do his players. John Elway and Gary Kubiak, likely with a little help from Wade Phillips, did well in recruiting Kollar to Denver.
With young guys like Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson, who have really only scratched the surface of their potential, playing out of position in a 4-3 defense for the first three years of their career, Kollar’s impact could catapult them to stardom.
Both players are quintessential 3-4 defensive ends, who can wreak havoc in the run game but also get after the quarterback. With both young defenders playing in a contract year, Kollar’s arrival to the Mile High City is timely.
In the video below, Bill Kollar talks about how he wrestled a bear once, at his 2014 induction into the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame.