Across a long and distinguished career, Dennis Erickson has won an NCAA title and led the resurgence of multiple notable national collegiate programs. He has coached in the NFL -- twice -- and mentored defensive superstars. And, now, he has served as a volunteer assistant coach at a high school.
If that seems like an unorthodox career progression to you, you're not alone. As chronicled by the Corvallis Gazette-Times, Erickson never intended to be an assistant high school coach. Instead, he figured he would still be in Tempe, coaching Arizona State. But after Erickson was ousted and his son, Bryce, was appointed as the coach at South Albany (Ore.) High, the patriarch knew what he had to do.
"This is back to the roots of coaching right here," Erickson told the Gazette-Times. "Just seeing them improve and get better is what it's all about."
After departing Arizona State following the school's Maaco Bowl loss, Erickson moved back to his home in Idaho. He kicked back, spent days fishing and golfing. By the time he got to July and August, when he would have been starting training camp for a new college season, Erickson was ready to get back to football.
That's when the elder Erickson decided it was time to join up with the younger. Officially, Erickson is an unspecified volunteer assistant. The Gazette-Times described his role at South Albany as that of a rover, proffering up sage advice to teens at various positions who might feel insecure following a winless season.
In particular, the elder Erickson has allegedly had a major impact on the team's quarterbacks, helping tutor Tanner Tibbett and give him a better feel for playing under center.
"In the past I had no idea," Tibbett told the Gazette-Times. "He's helped me read a defense, see where the blitzes are coming from."
For Erickson's son, Bryce, having Dad around the field during practice is an added bonus, helping change the climate at a school which had a football program in bad need of an about face.
"He just kind of floats around and helps us wherever he's needed. It's been great," said Bryce Erickson, who was a graduate assistant and later an assistant under his father the past five seasons at Arizona State.
"He's a football coach. He's always been a football coach, no matter what level he's at. He jumped right in and got involved."