UW Favorite Returns To The Gridiron

March 26, 2000


by Teddi Fowler
UW Sports Information

Former University of Wyoming football great, Mitch Donahue,has returned to the game he loves from an all-new angle. A phenomenaldefensive end who thrilled Wyoming fans from the 1987-1990 seasons is backnow as head coach of the Billings Thunderbolts in their premier season ofthe Indoor Football League.

Donahue has made a long journey before returning to his hometown for thisposition. He was a force be reckoned with in the Coach Paul Roach "goldenera" earning local, conference and national recognition. He was the 1989WAC Defensive Player of the year and made the 1988 and 1989 WAC first-teamselections. He was the only active player with eligibility to continueplaying named to the 1980's WAC All-Decade team and in 1990 earned aconsensus Pre-season All-American declaration.

Drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round in 1991, Donahuespent two years in the Bay Area playing middle linebacker. He was releasedand picked up by the Denver Broncos in 1993 where he played for two yearsbefore going to the Atlanta Falcons. At the end of the 1995 season Donahueleft the Falcons because of injuries.

He returned to Billings where he worked for the Fellowship of ChristianAthletes, sold insurance and got into the construction business before beingapproached by the Thunderbolts. He now has his own roofing business wherehis wife, Melissa, runs theoffice. Donahue said he wouldn't be able to take on coaching on top of thebusiness without Melissa's tremendous support.

Football has proven to be a large part of Donahue's life. "Everything Ilearned about football I learned from Wyoming," says Donahue. He attributes75 to 80 percent of his own coaching philosophies to those of Roach andformer defensive coordinator, Dell Wight. Donahue has put together acoaching staff with strong UW ties including more recent Cowboys: JoshWalwork, Marcus Harris and J.P. Williams.

Donahue says there's no greater brotherhood like that of UW football. Hespoke with former teammate, Tyrone Fittje, at an exhibition game in Casperrecently and still hears from other teammates like David Edeen, Pat Rabold,who owns a Golden Corral in Billings, and Scott Hanser, who also lives inBillings and owns Hanser's Automotive. "They're a great bunch of guys,"says Donahue.

Donahue takes his new position seriously, believing, as he did in college,that athletes have a responsibility to be role models and set an example forthose who rely on them. Personally, Donahue admired players like CarlMcklenburg and Howie Long, although he's had a slight change in heroes sincecollege. He now says he admires people who are successful in business andlife, and those who can balance work and family. Mitch and Melissa have twochildren, a son, Devon (7) and daughter Dylan (6).

So what lies ahead for Mitch Donahue? His team takes on the Rapid City(S.D.) Machine on April 8 in the first game of franchise history. Whenasked about returning to UW possibly as a coach, Donahue respondedenthusiastically, "I would love to coach atUW!" But he says he's not ready yet. He'd like to complete his degree fromUW in telecommunications, ideally by taking his remaining courses over theInternet. He also says he needs the experience the Billings organizationwill provide him, he "wouldn't want to lay a big egg at home!"

Home? "Billings is where my family is, but Laramie will always beconsidered home."