Brock Coyle only needed a few plays off.

San Francisco outside linebackers coach Johnny Holland already misses that nonstop energy. Holland remembers Coyle once taking a hit and having the wind knocked out of him during 49ers training camp. But with a brief break, Coyle was back on the field and practicing as if nothing happened.

The Bozeman native eventually found out he broke his ribs.

“That’s the type of player he is,” Holland said. “He’s going to lay it on the line, give you everything he has.”

Throughout his football life, Coyle never wanted to stop. He didn’t play for an FBS school, rather excelling at Montana, and pursued a professional career anyway. He went undrafted and signed as a free agent with the Seahawks, a team already loaded with talent at linebacker. He made the roster and helped his team make a Super Bowl, only to face crushing defeat.

Coyle’s asked often if he ever thought he would make an NFL roster. His favorite response is one of his favorite quotes: “High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectations.”

He kept rising up to the challenge, setting out to do what he always hoped.

Now as the NFL’s first week has passed, Coyle isn’t on the field. The former Seahawks and 49ers linebacker retired in the offseason due to medical reasons. But he doesn’t regret a second of it.

“Life’s good,” Coyle said. “It’s always exciting to close one chapter and start another, so I’m definitely excited about what’s ahead and very appreciative of the chapter that was, and all the work I put in has definitely set me up for a successful next chapter.”

Coyle, an all-state selection at Bozeman, finished his college career with 293 tackles, 11th all-time in program history, and 24.5 tackles for loss, which was 12th.

The NFL was always his goal, but it started to become a real possibility during his junior season when he began dominating in the Big Sky and exceeding even his own expectations. That’s when he started to believe his skills could translate to the pros.

And Coyle’s confidence never wavered. In reflection, he always expected to succeed. He believes that mindset was vital in him doing just that.

He felt welcomed into the NFL immediately. He remembers the first time walking into the Seahawks locker room, gazing up at the names on those lockers and reading countless names he recognized.

Earl Thomas. Marshawn Lynch. Russell Wilson. Richard Sherman. Kam Chancellor. Bobby Wagner. K.J. Wright.

“That really hit home to me. Like I was kind of starstruck,” Coyle said. “But these are your teammates now. You belong here, so let’s get it.”

Everything was at turbo speed compared to what Coyle was used to. Pass breaks, faster. Athletes, faster. Comprehending film, faster.

He never had to study like this before. Yet eventually, he grew accustomed to the flow and rhythm of pro football life. He didn’t have to juggle the commitments of a college athlete anymore. This was his only responsibility, and he felt he thrived on that.

The Seahawks had just won a Super Bowl the season before. But Coyle felt like he fit in because of head coach Pete Carroll’s emphasis on competition. Seahawks special teams coordinator Brian Schneider boasted about how Coyle was in shape at the beginning of every training camp and came back faster than before.

“And that really just comes with effort in a place I could thrive at because I’ve always believed I was the hardest worker in the room,” Coyle said. “And that’s something I prided myself on was hard work. So I knew I could control that aspect, and that ended up being a huge part of my success was that work ethic.”

Coyle admired Wagner and Wright, both who he still considers close friends, and could model his game after them. Coyle was impressed by Sherman’s competitive nature and intelligence — he called the cornerback one of the smartest players he’s ever known. Sherman excelled at reading an offense, and Coyle could incorporate that in his game.

“Going into such an established locker room with some of the great leaders and being so successful and really being on one of the top teams in the NFL,” Coyle said, “I really learned to be a pro and really got to watch some of the best players in their position at the time and some future Hall of Famers in practice every day.”

Schneider raved about how Coyle’s instincts instantly separated him. He wasn’t the most gifted player, but he was versatile enough to play on special teams, was physical and proved the NFL wasn’t too big of a stage for him. Schneider liked how Coyle looked on film but was truly impressed once he started practicing with the team.

“And the way he prepared,” Schneider said. “He had instincts on the field, but he came prepared and was always ready. He would come up and did everything he could to maximize himself.”

Coyle started nearly ever preseason game as a rookie, so he would’ve been shocked if he didn’t make the team. He never got the call he was cut, so he just assumed he made the roster.

When he read in a press release he had made it, his focus shifted to the next step.

He eventually played in the Super Bowl as a rookie and clearly remembers making a tackle on special teams in that game.

He also recalls his sense of disbelief when he watched Wilson throw an interception to Malcolm Butler in the game’s final seconds to seal Seattle’s fate and New England’s victory.

“I was just appreciative of even being on the field honestly,” Coyle said. “It was the Super Bowl in my first year. It was definitely a blessing. Obviously wish we could’ve won, but I just feel fortunate to have even played in a Super Bowl.”

Coyle recorded 33 tackles and a sack in 35 games played and five starts in three years with Seattle. But after those three years, his contract expired. He knew if he wanted to expand his role on defense, he would have to find a new home.

He was happy it wasn’t far from the West Coast.

His proudest accomplishment was signing the second contract of his career with the 49ers in 2017, reportedly a three-year, $8.4 million deal with $3 million fully guaranteed.

His first purchase was a house in Bozeman.

“In football, your play gets validated with contracts and so I think that was always my goal,” Coyle said. “Obviously would’ve loved to have won a Super Bowl and have those accolades, but that probably was the biggest one for me was to really step away from the game and feel like I peaked. I got to the level that I would always hope for was to be the best player I can be so I really stepped away from the game feeling that way, feeling like I maximized my talent and got to the pinnacle of my career.”

Coyle started his 49ers career at middle linebacker, but due to injuries, Holland wanted him moved to the weak side. Then after more injures, Holland moved Coyle back to middle. Holland admired the mentality Coyle took as he was willing to prioritize the team and learn whatever position he was at.

“His athletic ability is a little deceiving, but Brock is actually a very athletic guy who can run fast,” Holland said. “Brock is a player who would give you everything he had on the field, and he plays fast.”

Coyle became a starter and finished that season with a career-high 64 tackles in 10 starts. Holland thought his most improvement came from his communication. The coach could tell whenever Coyle wasn’t in the game because the other coaches didn’t feel as comfortable about on-field calls and adjustments.

Holland also loved the example Coyle set for the rest of the players. Only a few years prior, Coyle was awestruck as he played shoulder to shoulder with future Hall of Famers in Seattle. Now he was the one teaching younger players how to adjust to the speed of the game.

And to make his teammates feel comfortable, he learned a specific handshake with what Holland estimates to be about 20 other players with five to six moves with each one.

Holland isn’t sure how Coyle remembered all of them.

“Brock was one of my favorite players,” Holland said. “We miss Brock, and whatever he ends up doing in life, he’s going to be successful. That’s the type of person he is. He lives life the right way. He’s going to be successful.”

Coyle reportedly suffered a C4 compression fracture in his back during San Francisco’s Week 1 loss in 2018 to Minnesota and missed the remainder of the season.

He felt his decision to retire was made for him. Having been so purposeful in setting his goals, he began to reflect on his career and asked himself what more he could accomplish or work toward. But ultimately what outweighed everything was his long-term health.

Schneider said Coyle should “absolutely” be proud of his career.

“We all loved him when he was here and got another career path to go and has a family,” Schneider said. “but he did a great job.”

Coyle’s, who’s married with about a 1-year-old puppy named Griz, is taking retirement easy. This summer, he began considering going to Columbia Business School in New York and seeing where it takes him.

But he said he didn’t want to make a similar mistake as a lot of football players and immediately dive into a new time-staking venture. He’s thought about coaching, but a step away from football has been relaxing. The sport usually took up his falls, so he looked forward to being a full-time hunter.

He has plenty of time to consider his next step.

“I’ll make sure I fill my time with productive things,” Coyle said. “I definitely don’t sit around.”

Colton Pool can be reached at or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.