The Alliance’s Dennis Erickson, Troy Polamalu Make College Football Hall of Fame

The Alliance’s Dennis Erickson, Troy Polamalu Make College Football Hall of Fame

By Chantel Buchi
SAN ANTONIO — For Dennis Erickson and Troy Polamalu, it always has been about the players.

For 50 years, Erickson has been a football coach, a leader, a confidant and father figure. He has provided direction, opportunities and confidence to countless players and coaches. Erickson has gotten the absolute best out of his teams for one simple reason: They truly love and respect this kind-hearted coach.

And on Monday, Erickson and Polamalu were selected to enter the 2019 College Football Hall of Fame.

It was fitting and appropriate that when Erickson’s selection was revealed on ESPN’s SportsCenter Monday morning, he was surrounded at training camp by his latest group of players — the Salt Lake Stallions of the Alliance of American Football.

It’s also fitting that Erickson will be joined by a player who now helps The Alliance take care of its players. Polamalu, former Pittsburgh Steeler and USC Trojan who now is The Alliance’s Head of Player Relations, is one of the 13 players who will enter the Hall as part of the 2019 class. His position provides guidance for players during and after their football careers.

Polamalu was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, a six-time All-Pro defender and a two-time Super Bowl champion during his 12-year professional career. As a USC Trojan, he had 278 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, 6 interceptions, 4 blocked punts, and 3 touchdowns.

Erickson and Polamalu join Memphis Express coach Mike Singletary and Orlando Apollos coach Steve Spurrier as members of The Alliance in the College Football Hall of Fame.

“It’s been a ride for me, but I’m having more fun with you guys right now. This is the most fun I have had in a long time,” told his players upon hearing the announcement Monday morning.

After ending a two-year retirement, Erickson, 71, took on the role as head coach for Salt Lake, where he previously coached the University of Utah.

“It’s a great opportunity for the Stallions and for the people in Salt Lake who know Coach Erickson already, but the fact that he’s our coach in Salt Lake in a new venture like this, I think it’s outstanding,” Stallions General Manager Randy Mueller said. “It kicks off our season with his honor.”

Erickson’s 50 impressive years of coaching experience has been in both the collegiate and professional level with his most notable being with the University of Miami. Erickson led the Hurricanes to two national championships in 1989 and 1991, and his .875 winning percentage (63-9) remains the highest in the history of The U.

He was the first coach to earn Pac-12 Coach of the Year at three different schools: Washington State, Oregon State and Arizona State. He also was Coach of the Year for three years in the Big East Conference.

Erickson started at quarterback for Montana State in 1966-1968. He began his coaching career there as a graduate assistant the following year. At age 23, Erickson was the head coach at Billings Central Catholic High School for the 1970 season.

Erickson spent some time in the pros as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks in the late 90s and the San Francisco 49ers during the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Stallions GM Randy Mueller worked alongside Erickson for the Seahawks and have been friends ever since.

“In my 35 years in the NFL, I’ve had no prouder professional moments than the time we spent together,” Mueller said. “I think Dennis’s football acumen and his way with players sets him at the top of the list of anybody I’ve ever worked for.”

Stallions offensive coordinator Tim Lappano first met Erickson when he recruited Lappano in 1973 at the University of Idaho. He also coached with Erickson in both NFL teams.

“He’s been a mentor for me.,” Lappano said. “Other than my family, nobody has done more than he has done for me.”

The kind words don’t stop there. Erickson was the best man at Stallions offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto’s wedding. Cozzetto said Erickson is like a second father that he can rely on and turn to. He didn’t take a second to consider coaching with him again.

“It was a no-brainer to work with Coach Erickson on the Stallions team,” Cozetto said. “It was an opportunity to end my career the way I wanted it to end. And how my career started was with him anyways as a coach back in 1981.”

Dres Anderson, current Stallion and former wide receiver for the University of Utah during the time Erickson was part of the coaching team, says it is great to be working with this HOF coach again.

“Erickson is one of my favorite coaches I have ever played for,” Anderson said. “Just being back reunited with him is a great thing. He knows how to take care of his players.”

This player’s coach has given opportunities, been present when needed and taken on a parental role for his coaches and players. Anyone who knows Coach Erickson knows he will make this induction about his players and his supporting staff, but today is unlike any other. Today is about the coach who inducted their football career and the love of the game.