Around Christmas, Colorado football coach Mike MacIntyre caught himself staring at a bloated figure. He could barely recognize this man, even though he knows him well.
He was looking in the mirror.
"Oh, my, God," MacIntyre said. "What have I done to myself?"
He immediately decided to repent. He changed his diet and embraced exercise as he engaged in an all-out attack on his gut. On Wednesday, a vastly reduced version of MacIntyre sat before a big crowd at the annual Colorado Springs Sports Corp. Football Kickoff Lunch.
He's dropped 52 pounds.
He altered himself. No doubt about that.
Now all he has to do is alter one of our nation's worst college football programs. We have all suffered through a long stretch of bleak days in Boulder. The Buffs have lost 69 of their past 98 games.
My, but it's been ugly. Such misery. Such humiliation.
Still, despite a mountain of reason for doubt, I believe MacIntyre can lead a transformation of this long-horrific football team. He's wise enough to refrain from promising a rapid revival. He was standing on the sideline during last season's 1-8 Pac-12 disaster. He knows the immensity of his task.
But he believes.
"Well, there's no other way to go," MacIntyre said Wednesday, confirming he sees light in the midst of all of CU's recent gloom. "You can easily be negative, but . there are a lot of things to be optimistic about.
"I just think it's a matter of time, I really do. . It'll happen fairly soon."
MacIntyre declined to be specific about an exact date for "fairly soon."
And that's fine, for now. Fans' expectations have dwindled. Well, maybe not dwindled. Disappeared is the better word. Thousands of fans have no expectations because they lost all interest in the Buffs. They've jumped ship.
MacIntyre, heading into his second CU season, is blessed with the gifts to lure those fans back to the fold.
He knows about lifting fallen programs. San Jose State was in a lower state than the Buffs when MacIntyre arrived in 2009. The Spartans were coming off a 2-10 season and had earned only three winning records since 1993. MacIntyre opened with a 1-12 season that had a strong resemblance to 2013's CU disaster.
But San Jose State flirted with a winning record in 2011 and then stampeded to a 10-2 record in 2012.
I realize a repeat of this uplifting story is unlikely. Dan Hawkins was an earlier version of MacIntyre. Hawkins was the bright, youthful coach who seemed certain to rescue the fallen Buffs.
That's what Hawkins was in 2005. Hawkins departed CU in 2010 with a tattered, ruined career. MacIntyre's faith must have been severely shaken last season. He must have thought a few times about Hawkins.
But the leaders in Boulder have, finally, embarked on ambitious improvements to Folsom Field. Boulder has always been one of the most gorgeous destinations in college football. Soon, the scenery will include a state-of-the-art stadium. This will aid McIntyre as he pursues elite recruits.
"I am encouraged," MacIntyre said.
A suddenly slender football coach brushed aside CU's recent football past, with all its shame and futility, and gazed with a smile toward the future.
He's looking in the right direction.