Brian Cabral is in his 24th season at the University of Colorado, his 23rd as a full time assistant coach, as he first joined the Buffalo staff as graduate assistant in 1989. When Jon Embree was hired as the program's head coach on December 6, 2010, one of the first things he did was to keep Cabral on staff, naming him defensive run game coordinator along with maintaining his coaching role with the linebackers.
In his tenure, Cabral has also held various other titles, including interim head coach, associate head coach and assistant head coach.
His 23 years as a full-time assistant rank as the most in CU history, not only for football but for all sports, as in 2008 he passed two legendary "Franks," Potts and Prentup, both of whom assisted Buff head football coaches for 18 seasons. Since he joined the staff, he has always coached the inside linebackers, and occasionally has had the outside 'backers under his direction as well as he does under Embree. From 1999 through 2005, he also coached the punt return unit on special teams, and served as the director of CU's summer football camps from 1995 through 2005 and for a brief time as recruiting coordinator.
Cabral, 56, has now worked under five head coaches during his tenure: Bill McCartney, Rick Neuheisel, Gary Barnett, Dan Hawkins and Embree. For all seven seasons under Barnett, Cabral also was the assistant head coach, which included a three-month period in 2004 as interim head coach when Barnett was on paid administrative leave. In that role, he continued to coach his position players but also took care of day-to-day operational details of the program.
Hawkins promoted him to associate head coach on February 7, 2008, citing his leadership in noting that "no one person has had more influence in the success of Colorado football than Brian Cabral." When Hawkins was relieved of his duties as head coach on November 8, 2010, Cabral was once again named interim head coach, this time having to finish out the season and pilot the Buffs in game situations. He led Colorado to a 2-1 record, with wins over Iowa State (34-14) and Kansas State (44-36) before a 45-17 loss at Nebraska ended CU's hopes for a bowl invitation as the Buffs finished the year with a 5-7 record.
You could also call him an ambassador for his native Hawai'i, as he has worked youth camps in the state as well as all-Polynesian camps in the states. He is a founding board member of the Polynesian Coaches Association, formed ahead of the 2007 season.
In the summer of 2002, he was one of 500 nationwide recipients of the AFLAC National Assistant Coach-of-the-Year Award. Coaches on all levels were honored, from youth to professional, and he was one of 10 selected regionally to receive the award. In 2008, CBSSportsline.com selected him to its "All-Coach" team at the linebacker position.
Cabral tutored the inside linebackers his first year in Boulder as a grad assistant, and assumed full-time duties in the same capacity in 1990 and has coached the position at CU to this day. He returned to Colorado, his alma mater, from Purdue, where he coached the inside linebackers for two seasons (1987-88).
Known as one of the top linebacker coaches in the nation, his students have included Matt Russell, the 1996 Butkus Award winner, all-Big Eight performers Greg Biekert, Chad Brown and Ted Johnson, all of whom went on to stardom in the National Football League, and all-Big 12 linebacker Jordon Dizon, a consensus All-American who was also the league defensive player of the year for 2007. He also recruited tailback Rashaan Salaam, the 1994 Heisman trophy winner, and Chris Naeole, a 1996 All-American guard.
His 2001 punt return team led the nation with a 17.4 average, and also boasted the nation's top individual return man in Roman Hollowell, who averaged 18.0 per return and scored two touchdowns. In 2002, Jeremy Bloom averaged 15.0 yards per return and was 13th in the nation as a freshman (ranking 21st as a sophomore in '03). Cabral prided himself on the team being composed largely of non-starters, drawing comparison to his roots when he was special teams captain of the Chicago Bears.
He is a 1978 CU graduate, as he earned a B.S. degree in therapeutic recreation. He lettered three seasons for the Buffs at linebacker from 1975 to 1977 under Coach Bill Mallory, as he was a captain and played a big role on CU's Big Eight champion team in 1976. He led CU with 13 tackles (12 solo) in the 1977 Orange Bowl against Ohio State. As a senior, he was honored as the Big Eight Conference's player of the week for a monster 25 tackles in a CU 27-21 win over Stanford and shared the team's Sure Tackler Award with Mark Haynes. That 25-tackle game included 13 solo stops and is still tied for the fourth most in a single game in CU history.
Cabral had 297 tackles in his CU career (120 solo, 177 assisted), a number that still has him tied for 16th on Colorado's all-time list. A unique fact is that he has coached 10 of the other 19 players in CU's all-time top 20, including eight players on the list ahead of him: Matt Russell, Greg Biekert, Ted Johnson, Chad Brown, Michael Jones, Jashon Sykes, Thaddaeus Washington and Jordon Dizon (seven rank in the top nine). His players through the years have registered over 6,000 tackles wearing the Black & Gold he once wore.
He was a nine-year NFL veteran, as Atlanta drafted him in the fourth round in 1978. He played two seasons with Atlanta, one with Green Bay and six with Chicago. As the captain of the Bears' special teams, he was a member of Chicago's Super Bowl XX champion team in 1985. He was selected as the Frito-Lay Unsung Hero in the Bears' win over New England, as he had two solo and two assisted tackles on special teams.
He was born June 23, 1956, in Fort Benning, Ga., but grew up in Kailua, Hawaii. He is married to the former Becky Lucas, and they have three grown children, son Kyle and daughters Maile and Mele. He is an active member in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He has authored a book ("Second String Champion"), and his hobbies include surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding.
TOP PLAYERS COACHED: All-Americans (3): Jordon Dizon (Butkus Award runner-up), Roman Hollowell (punt returner), Matt Russell (Butkus Award winner). All-Big Eight/12 Performers (7): Greg Biekert, Chad Brown, Dizon, Hollowell, Ted Johnson (Butkus Award runner-up), Michael Jones, Russell. Big 12 Defensive Players of the Year (1): Dizon. Big 12 Defensive Newcomers of the Year (1): Dizon. NFL Players/Draft Picks (10): Biekert, Brown, Dizon, Johnson, Ron Merkerson, Hannibal Navies, Russell, Jashon Sykes, Sean Tufts, Drew Wahlroos.
RECORD: He has coached in 292 Division I-A games as a full-time coach, owning a record of 153-113-4 at Colorado (164-114-4 including his graduate assistant year); Purdue was 7-14-1 when he was on the Boilermaker staff. He has coached in 14 bowl games (six New Year's Day).