BROOMFIELD - Former Colorado safety Mike Davis couldn't hide his emotion Sunday as he talked about Bill Mallory putting him on the right path when he was recruited to Boulder from Los Angeles in the 1970s.
"He saved my life," Davis said from the podium as he spoke to fellow former players, CU legends and members of Mallory's family, who all gathered at the Omni Interlocken Hotel to honor the former Buffaloes head coach, who passed away on May 25 in Bloomington, Ind.
Mallory is the all-time wins leader at Indiana and is best known for his time with the Hoosiers, but he also made a significant impact on his players at CU, where he coached from 1974-78. He posted a record of 35-21-1 at CU and led them to a share of the Big Eight Conference title in 1976.
Davis, Mike Spivey and Chuck McCarter were among Mallory's former CU players to speak to the group about his legacy. Brian Cabral, Dave Logan and others were also in attendance, along with former CU head coaches Bill McCartney and Gary Barnett, athletic director Rick George, former KOA play-by-play announcer Larry Zimmer and players from other eras of CU football.
"The Mallory men that were here needed to do that because he had a tremendous impact and influence on shaping our lives and shaping us as men," said Cabral, who played at CU from 1975-77 and was the longest-tenured assistant coach in program history, from 1990-2012. "He shaped my life from what I accomplished playing, but also as a coach."
Stories told throughout the event brought back fond memories for some, but also served another purpose. Mallory's widow, Ellie, and his daughter, Barb, were in attendance, as well.
"It wouldn't have been the same if (Ellie) wasn't here and Barb wasn't here," Cabral said. "We need them to know how much he meant to us."
Mallory was remembered as a tough, but well-loved coach and friend to those who knew him best.
"It was just such a great honor to play for him, and then to come back and see all these guys that you haven't seen in a long time is a great thing," said Tom Tesone, a safety for the Buffs from 1973-77. "He toughened us all up. We were all kind of soft in that Boulder era back in the 70s. He taught us a lot how to be men and how to work hard. I came back from three knee injuries and learned how to fight through all of that."
Davis spoke about growing up in a tough area of Los Angeles, but thanked Mallory for seeing something special in him and giving him a chance to play and grow up at CU.
Davis, Spivey and McCarter talked about Mallory putting the team first and turning the Buffs into a group that was tough to beat.
Ellie and Barb also spoke to the group. Ellie told the former players she still saw them as the 18-year-old recruits she first knew, and how much it meant to her to see them remaining life-long friends.
It was, in large part, because of Mallory that they are friends to this day.
"He was a tough dude, but you knew he cared because all he cared about was your best; getting the best out of you and he knew what that was," Cabral said. "He demanded only the best and nothing less."