Cabral, 56, completed his 24th season as a Buffaloes assistant - 23 in a full-time role - at the conclusion of the 2012 season. A 1978 CU graduate, he played linebacker for the Buffs from 1975-77, serving as a captain on the 1976 Big Eight championship team.
At Indiana State, Cabral will work for head coach Mike Sanford. Cabral and Sanford first crossed paths when Cabral left the NFL and was a graduate assistant at Purdue, where Sanford was a position coach.
"I met him there and we've been friends ever since," Cabral said, adding that Sanford approached him about becoming his defensive coordinator when Sanford was UNLV's head coach (2005-09).
But Cabral, who coached many of the Buffs' highest profile linebackers, spurned Sanford's offer because he didn't want to uproot his youngest daughter, Mele, who was a high school senior.
"I wasn't willing to do it and turned him down," Cabral said. "But he happened to have an opportunity now at the same time I'm picking retirement (from CU). I'll be working for a guy I know and appreciate."
Cabral worked under five head coaches at CU, was assistant head coach under Gary Barnett for seven seasons, and twice served as interim head coach. In November, 2010, he led the Buffs to a 2-1 record after the dismissal of Dan Hawkins.
Hired in mid-December, Sanford replaces Trent Miles, who left for Georgia State after directing a three-year turnaround of an ISU program that went from 2-54 from 2005-09 to 6-5 in 2010 and 7-4 in the 2011-12 seasons. The Sycamores, members of the Missouri Valley Conference, ranked third nationally (FCS) in scoring defense and fifth in pass efficiency defense and total defense last season.
Sanford has 35 years of coaching experience spread over 14 stops. Most recently, he was Louisville's offensive coordinator in 2010-11 and Utah State's assistant head coach (running backs/tight ends) in 2012, when the Aggies finished 11-2 and won the WAC.
In Indiana State's release announcing Cabral's hiring, Sanford said Cabral "brings tremendous experience and expertise to our staff. He will be a great addition from a defensive scheme standpoint, but most of all for his ability to develop players and bring out the best in them. Brian cares deeply about student-athletes, a trait that both he and I share."
Cabral called the position on Sanford's staff "an ideal situation for me . . . I'm going to go and work with a buddy of mine and at same time have a challenge of being a defensive coordinator.
"It's a great situation and great timing. I'm really starting a third career - first the NFL, then CU and now I'm hitting the road. I'm really excited about it."
The prospect of recruiting in Chicago also excited Cabral, who finished his nine-year NFL career by playing six seasons with the Bears. "It'll take me back to my roots," he said.
Cabral said Sanford also plans to hire former CU safety Anthony Perkins (2007-11) as secondary coach and a former Buffs offensive graduate assistant, Joe Bever, as wide receivers coach. Perkins was a technical intern on CU's 2012 coaching staff.
Cabral officially began working at ISU on Monday.