Football has been an important part of Phil McGeoghan’s life since his childhood.
An all-state player at Agawam (Mass.) High School and a star receiver at the University of Maine, he also bounced around the NFL a bit. Shortly after his playing career, he got into coaching.
“I’ve only done this job,” he said. “I’ve been a player and I’ve been a coach. So this is what I love.”
Colorado’s new receivers coach comes to Boulder with a renewed perspective and energy, however.
In 2020, McGeoghan stepped away from the game he loves and didn’t return until CU head coach Karl Dorrell offered him the job with the Buffaloes in January.
McGeoghan, 42, was coaching receivers with the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers when, in the middle of the 2020 season, he went on personal leave at the urging of then-Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn.
At the time, the NFL was going through the COVID-19 impacted 2020 season and McGeoghan wrote on Twitter that he needed to take care of his family, including himself.
Lynn was fired after the 2020 season and McGeoghan chose to take a break from coaching in 2021.
“It was the toughest decision I ever had to make in my life,” he said.
He had coaching opportunities, he said, but put family first.
“I was separated from my son for eight months,” McGeoghan said. “I hadn’t been away from him for longer than three weeks. He was living in Florida, I was in California and we had strict bubble protocols. I just felt like I was losing ground as a father.
“I didn’t know my biological father until I was 38 years old and for me being a father is not obligatory; it’s something that I want to be there. I want to be a part of this process. I’m going to develop everybody else’s children (as a coach), but I’m not going to spend enough time developing my own son? That’s just not how I live my life. But it was difficult (to not coach in 2021) because I love football.”
McGeoghan found some balance, spending more time with family while staying sharp as a coach. He visited Alabama, LSU, Louisville and Louisiana Tech, he said, adding, “I did a lot of Zooms and clinics and coached my son’s flag football team.”
Ultimately, not being a part of a team for a year was good for McGeoghan.
“I surrounded myself with some really good mentors and my wife, Tori, was so strong,” he said. “She deserved the husband that I was this year and my kids deserve the father that I was this past year. And, CU is going to get the best version of myself because of the decision I made in 2021.”
The opportunity to work with Dorrell is what drove him to Boulder.
As a player, McGeoghan spent parts of two seasons (2001-02) with the Denver Broncos and Dorrell was his position coach.
“Playing for coach Dorrell was a real pleasure, a real blessing for me to get a chance to see how he cared for his players, his individualized approach to the development of each individual player,” McGeoghan said. “When we watched him, what he did for his family while he was our position coach, it really impacted a lot of the guys in that room.
“I was able to model a lot of my philosophical beliefs around (then Broncos head coach Mike) Shanahan and that staff. … Dorrell is a very patient teacher. He has a lot of integrity and personal character.”
For several years, Dorrell and McGeoghan were both receivers coaches in the NFL and kept in touch.
“I believe the first thing that’s very important in this profession is trust and loyalty,” McGeoghan said. “I trust coach and he trusts me. I’m loyal to him and he’s loyal to me. That’s always been that way for 20 years.”
During his career, McGeoghan has coached several 1,000-yard receivers in the NFL, including Keenan Allen, Brian Hartline, Jarvis Landry and Mike Williams. At East Carolina in 2016, Zay Jones (now with the Las Vegas Raiders) was a first-team All-American with 158 catches for 1,746 yards.
“I’ve had a lot of guys catch a lot of passes,” he said. “But I think the guys that you would reach out to that have been successful … would say I’ve cared more about them as people than I did about those big numbers that they put up. We are proud of those numbers, but there’s also more that goes in behind the scenes and that’s really what I’m looking forward to bringing to this program.”
Already displaying great energy as a recruiter, McGeoghan said he won’t back down in trying to attract the best receivers in the country to Boulder.
The players he does coach at CU will get the best that he’s got, McGeoghan said, and they will work hard. Like McGeoghan has done over the past year and a half, that work won’t be limited to the football field.
“This isn’t going to be a country club,” he said. “We’re going to work and I want guys who want to work and want to improve and have a burning desire to be great and compete, go to class, get a degree, be good young men. We’re going to learn a lot of life lessons here. … There’s a holistic development process and I want guys who want to be better men, want to be better sons, eventually husbands and fathers. Those are the things that we’re trying to get done in the wide receiver room.”