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Alouettes hire ESPN analyst to fill Trestman's shoes

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MONTREAL -- Once again, general manager Jim Popp went outside the box to find a head coach for the Montreal Alouettes.

On Tuesday, the CFL club hired Dan Hawkins to replace Marc Trestman who was named the Chicago Bears head coach last month. Hawkins, 52, arrives in Montreal with no previous Canadian football coaching experience.

But back in 2008, Popp raised eyebrows when he hired Trestman, who came to the Alouettes with no previous CFL coaching experience as well as having never been a head coach. Over five seasons, Trestman compiled a 59-31-0 record, won two Grey Cups and was named the league's coach of the year in 2009.

"It just came together that Dan was the right guy as we went through the process," said Popp. "We got some very high-profile people call on his behalf and there were probably two or three candidates that never said anything negative about somebody and he was one of them.

"And you don't get those type of people calling for you unless you're the real deal and he's proven he has been the real deal. He's a quality, quality head-coaching prospect and we're going to give him that opportunity."

Hawkins wasted no time trying to fit into his new surrounding, giving his opening remarks in tortured but earnest French. But there was no denying Hawkins' enthusiasm for his first pro head-coaching job.

"You look at when you were a kid out in the yard playing football and you started making up these other rules that made the game more fun and more exciting, you've got a lot of that in the CFL," he said. "I mean, everybody's in motion.

"In the States, you've got one guy in motion. You've got a wider field so you've got more space. They're talking about widening the NFL field right now to kind of eliminate some of the collisions. All that's exciting."

Hawkins takes over a Montreal team that finished atop the East Division with an 11-7 record last year. But the Alouettes lost 27-20 to the eventual Grey Cup-champion Toronto Argonauts in the conference final.

Hawkins spent the last two seasons as a college football analyst for ESPN but served as the head coach at Boise State and Colorado. Hawkins was just 19-39 at Colorado but an impressive 53-11 at Boise State and has an overall record of 112-61-1.

Popp spoke to over 50 candidates during his search and involved veteran pivot Anthony Calvillo in the process.

Calvillo didn't know about Hawkins' hiring until receiving a phone call from owner Robert Wetenhall on Sunday.

"We now have to buy into the philosophy of Dan Hawkins and that's going to be something I'm going to do this off-season," Calvillo said. "I've trusted Mr. Wetenhall and Jim Popp every time they brought in a new head coach and now it's our turn as players to buy into what Dan is going to bring to the table and try not to compare too much of what your last coach did."

Mike Miller, who served last season as the Arizona Cardinals' offensive co-ordinator, joins Hawkins' staff as the assistant head coach, offensive co-ordinator and quarterbacks coach.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 20, 2013 C6

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