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Coach's kid Hackett completes climb from folding towels to NFL head coach

New Broncos coach may have more intelligence than energy and enthusiasm. And he has tons of energy and enthusiasm.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There are a lot of descriptions, characteristics, hobbies, interests and job titles connected to Nathaniel Hackett - adding head coach for the Broncos to the list was a big day for the former NFL assistant coach. 

9NEWS sat down with Hackett, and one interesting thing he told us is he's completed college degrees in neurobiology and physiology behaviors.

“We called it MPB,’’ Hackett said. “It was very unique.’’

This biological science teaches the understanding of vital functions for all animals.

In the spirit of his education and intelligence, 9NEWS put him to the test during our sit-down interview with the team’s head coach Friday.

Montana or Young? “Ooh, Montana.”

Elway or Marino? “Elway.”

Good answer. OK, so 9NEWS wasn’t exactly delivering a test in physiology behaviors. But we got closer.

Dr. Dre or Green Day? “Dr. Dre. Without a doubt. He’s the best. I caught you off-guard, didn’t I?’’

No, expected it. Heard you dabbled in hip-hop dancing.

“I’m definitely a hip-hopper,” he said.

Mental confidence or physical ability? “Mental confidence.”

Why do you say that? “Because the muscle is the strongest muscle in the body.’’

Now we’re in physiology behavior territory.

Momma’s boy or chip off dad’s block?

“Ha, I’m a mamma’s boy. I am a mamma’s boy. My mom, she was my best friend growing up. When you move around a lot, you go through a lot as a coach’s kid, you become real tight as a family. You’ve got to stick together because there’s always going to be adversity and you don’t win every single game and we’ve got to stick together and defend each other.”

By the way, Nathaniel or Nate?

“Nathaniel if my dad’s around,’’ Hackett said. “Nate is perfectly fine if he’s not around. But either one’s great.”

The coach’s kid upbringing is what Hackett and the man who hired him, Broncos’ general manager George Paton, have in common. Paton’s dad was a legendary high school football coach in California. Nathaniel’s dad is Paul Hackett, an offensive NFL assistant and college head coach for nearly 40 years.

“Whether it’s scouts or coaches whose dads were coaches – when you’re around it your whole life, you just seem to have those instincts, you have a great feel for it, you have a love of the game,’’ Paton said in his sit-down with 9News Friday. “And you’ve been through the ups and downs when your dad’s teams are losing or winning. You’ve been through kind of everything so it’s certainly a plus.”

Yes, coaches’ kids have their advantages but it also means starting at the bottom. The very bottom. The first job for a coach’s kid is usually ball boy and to fetch water.

“That’s huge,’’ Hackett said. “To be able to grow up in that atmosphere, I mean, picking up the laundry, doing errands for the guys. Folding towels. I’ve folded more towels for (former Chiefs’ equipment managers) Darin Kerns, Allen Wright and Mike Davidson than I care to admit to. It makes you who you are. It makes you understand the players. Just appreciate what they do. And appreciate everybody in the entire organization. It doesn’t matter what you do, everything’s important.’’

>> Video below: Broncos introduce Nathaniel Hackett as new head coach

Something else Hackett and Paton has in common: They’re both family men. They each brought their wives and children – four for Hackett, two for Paton – to the press conference and they all posed for photos after the press conference. Perhaps, there were a couple of potential towel folders in the group.

Now that he’s the Broncos’ head coach, Hackett can concentrate on the primary task of improving the Broncos’ offense that has been in a seven-year slump. Hackett has the outline of a plan, but he doesn’t have the details filled in just yet. Hackett said he would call plays on game day but he won’t get one of his top options at offensive coordinator. The Packers informed the Broncos they’re going to keep offensive line coach Adam Stenavich. Hackett will find another.

“Now that I’m here, and I’ve been in the NFC most of the time, it’s about getting in here and learning about the players,’’ he said. “And learning who they are and what they do well. The system we’ve developed at Green Bay, a combination of all the ones we’ve done, I think it allows you to be very explosive.’’

Hackett did realize the AFC West boasts quarterbacks named Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr, correct?

“Yeah, this is the one you want to be in right now,’’ Hackett said confidently. “I have so much respect for all these teams. I mean the one I grew up with when I was in high school, my dad being with the Kansas City Chiefs, this has always been one of my favorite divisions, the best decision in my opinion. With Denver, Kansas City, LA Chargers now which is hard to say still and you’ve got the Raiders in Vegas. It’s a great division and that’s where you want to be. You want to be in the premier division. It’s a challenge for our guys, we’re going to play together and we’re going to find a way to win.”

In the past three seasons, Hackett, 42, helped coordinate the offense for another superb quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. Based on the energy and enthusiasm Hackett displayed in his introductory press conference Friday, it’s easy to see why Paton and his five-person search committee picked him over 9 other candidates. Still, agents, coaches and personnel people inside the industry are skeptical. They smell an eventual package deal with Rodgers also winding up with the Broncos.

“This is totally independent,’’ Paton said. “It would be really shallow for me to think like that. This is on his own merit. This guy’s a really good football coach. He’s a really good person. This guy has the ability to connect with this entire organization, this entire community. You’re going to feel Nathaniel Hackett. We hired him because he was the best candidate for us.”

Fine, fine. Well, then, what was it like to coach Aaron Rodgers?

“First and foremost you’ve got this great player,’’ Hackett said. “He’s obviously always been a great player. But I think getting into the room with him, you get to know the person and as a person, as a man, he’s one of the best people I’ve ever met. His intelligence, his understanding of the game just makes him such a premier player that’s ever played this game. We had a great time. That whole room. It wasn’t just Aaron, it was about everybody together. Matt (LaFleur) being in there, Luke Getsy being in there, Jordan (Love) being in there, Kurt (Benkert), all the guys. Tim Boyle was in there. He does a great job of having everybody around him feel like they can be better. He did that for me. You get better being around him and he tests you a lot. I think that’s one great way to grow is when somebody else tests you.’’

See there. 9News knew what it was doing. One more chance to get the correct answer, Nathaniel: Dr. Dre or Green Day?

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