Darian Hagan is viewed as a superhero by Buffs fans and as a father figure by many of the young men he has coached and mentored at Colorado.
As Bill McCartney's starting quarterback, Hagan guided the program to a 28-5-2 record - including an unfathomable 20-0-1 mark in Big Eight games - culminating with the Buffs' national championship in 1990.
As an assistant coach at his alma mater, Hagan's tough love has turned wide-eyed boys like Rodney Stewart into outstanding, and college-educated, young men.
On Saturday night in front of a small audience at Shine Restaurant in Boulder, Hagan courageously showed another side to his legendary persona. A very painful and private side.
An extremely vulnerable Hagan talked publicly about the suicide of his 19-year-old son, DeVaughn Levy, for the very first time.
"Not a day goes by that I don't think of him," Hagan said. "He was just like me in every way - his smile, his laugh, his big head."
DeVaughn desperately wanted to follow in his father's Ralphie-sized footsteps at Folsom Field.
"His dream was to earn a scholarship to the University of Colorado," Hagan said. "He wanted to be a Buff."
DeVaughn took a darker path.
Hagan never married his son's mother, Nyasha Levy, and DeVaughn longed for his father's presence during his teenage years.
"He could feel the tension between us," Hagan admits. "We were young parents and just showered him with love and affection."
DeVaughn eventually grew closer to his dad, but after graduating from Cherry Creek High School his grade-point average was not high enough to qualify at CU. So the promising defensive back opted to play at Garden City Community College in Kansas with the long-term goal of finishing his career under the Flatirons.
During the journey complete, DeVaughn asked his parents if he could add the name Hagan to his official birth certificate. They said yes, but it would take some time to make the change official.
"He changed it on his Facebook page that night," Hagan recalled with a proud laugh.
But the dream was shattered on a cold Friday night in November of 2010. DeVaughn called Hagan and was extremely upset about a crumbling relationship with his girlfriend.
"I knew something wasn't right," Hagan said of the conversation. "The last thing I told him was that I loved him."
It was the last time Hagan spoke to his son. DeVaughn hung himself in his dorm room that night.
"I will always remember his kindness, his big heart and his smile," Hagan said. "I will always remember DeVaughn Levy-Hagan."
Hang on. Let go. Repeat.
Those are the words that have helped Doug Vincent pick up the pieces. That and enjoying every fleeting moment with his wife Jessica as they raise their treasured daughter Grace together.
Vincent grew up idolizing Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench. But his real childhood hero was his father Jack, who inspired him on a daily basis just by sitting in the stands for every Little League pitch and being there for his "Pal" to talk things out in the man cave inside the family's Virginia home.
One fateful night their typical father-son conversation exploded into a regrettable confrontation. Jack's demons - an unforgiving drinking problem -- was now drowning the family. Vincent decided to call the old man on his destructive behavior.
After the fight, Vincent headed downstairs to clear the air with Jack in their "sanctuary." He found his father hanging from a low beam with a perfectly tied noose around his neck.
"He's breathing," Vincent thought to himself while performing CPR on his lifeless dad. "Then I realized it was just my air going into a corpse."
Jack was dead. Another victim of that unspeakable act -- suicide.
Two decades after the violent abandonment, Vincent's worst nightmare reoccurred when Grace entered the world breathlessly -- the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around her neck and a dangerously low heart rate.
When Vincent looked into his daughter's eyes for the first time he saw the same fear that his father's eyes had the last time he looked into them.
"She's breathing," he said eventually.
This time it was a happy ending.
Grace, who will turn 4 in June, is happy, healthy and the inspiration for Vincent's powerful play about his story - A Day For Grace - which he stars in, along with the the haunting music of longtime BoDeans songwriter and guitarist Sam Llanas, whose brother committed suicide when he was 13.
Hagan decided to tell his story for the first time in front of some familiar faces (Matt Lepsis, John Hessler, Mark Johnson) mixed into a crowd of strangers to help Vincent raise money for suicide prevention and promote the critically acclaimed play.
Vincent watched Hagan's raw dialogue about DeVaughn's short life from the back of the room. No one really understands suicide, but the two men can certainly relate to the cruel wake it leaves behind.
Vincent wanted to move far away from Virginia after Jack's suicide to get some physical distance from the devastation. Ironically, he ended up at CU, where a superhero by the name of Darian Hagan helped the sports-craved kid hang on and let go while leading the Buffs to a national championship.