MISSOULA — To borrow a line from Saturday Night Live: Live from New York, it’s Dave Dickenson.
The former Montana quarterback wore a black tuxedo with a white shirt and a black bow tie on Tuesday in New York City as he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Dickenson’s induction came nearly 23 years after he last put on a Griz uniform in 1995.
“More than anything, I think I’m just one of normal Montana people,” Dickenson said on Tuesday. “I just basically play a game, got lucky, had some success. To be recognized on the national stage, I think, is important, though. I think sometimes we get stuck in our little neck of the woods. So, I’m just glad they’re proud of who I am and what I accomplished but also what I stand for, and I’m doing my best to represent the state.”
At Montana, Dickenson won the Walter Payton Award and was a two-time All-American. He guided the Griz to two Big Sky Conference titles and the 1995 national championship, a game that he thought was the last time he’d ever play.
“I do remember, ‘This is it. This is going to be it for Dave,’” Dickenson recalled. “You know, they asked me a question, like after we won, we beat Marshall, and they said, ‘You don’t look surprised,’ and I said, ‘Well, we didn’t show up to lose.’ I just believe people, once again, short selled us a little bit, didn’t think we were going to finish the deal.
“Kind of been that way my whole life. Just for me, it was kind of like, ‘OK, the career’s over. What a great way to finish.’ Felt like we had done something special. No one could take it away. After that moment, everything’s kind of fell in line. So, it’s amazing how I guess one game and one season can kind of set you up for the rest of your life. It certainly did it for me.”
Dickenson excelled off the field as well and was a three-time Academic All-American and a National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete. He said he turned down about $35,000 in post-graduate scholarships to play professionally. He had short stints in the NFL with San Diego, Seattle, Miami and Detroit before he went to the CFL, where he won five titles as a player, assistant coach and head coach.
"During your time at the University of Montana, you were the epitome of student-athlete success," University of Montana athletic director Kent Haslam said in a video about Dickenson that was shared on Twitter.
Dickenson was one of 13 former players and coaches to be inducted by the National Football Foundation on Tuesday. Some of the more nationally recognizable inductees were players like Ed Reed, Calvin Johnson and Charles Woodson, and coaches like Frank Beamer and Mack Brown.
Dickenson, though, was the lone inductee in this year’s class who has won a high school state title, a college national championship, a title as a professional player and a championship as a professional head coach. He checked the last item off that list nine days earlier when his Calgary Stampeders won the Grey Cup in the CFL.
“These two weeks for me have been as good as any in my life,” Dickenson said. "... I remember like seeing some other athletes like Peyton Manning and some other guys that after they win a Super Bowl and they’re just almost feel like they’re exhausted and a relief. I felt the same way. I felt like it was overdue.
"Worked super hard to accomplish it, so to me, now to get to New York and just kind of relax and get together with these guys, the guys I’ve looked up to my whole life and watched football my whole life, it’s big time for me just to get away and be part of this group. It’ll be tough to match 2018, though, because it’s been a great year for me."
Known as ‘Super Dave,’ Dickenson is the third person from the state of Montana to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. William ‘Wild Bill’ Kelly was inducted in 1969. Bernie Bierman, a Griz football and basketball coach from 1919-21, went on to win five national titles at Minnesota.
Dickenson is just the fourth player from the Big Sky Conference to be inducted. In total, only 997 college football players out of approximately 5.5 million have been inducted, which is roughly 0.02 percent of players.
"There is simply no higher honor that a student-athlete can receive, and there's no one more deserving than Dave," University of Montana president Seth Bodnar said in the video shared on Twitter.
Montana head coach Bobby Hauck added: "He made the entire state of Montana proud, both as a national champion and as a Walter Payton Award winner."
Dickenson previously was inducted into the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. His No. 15 jersey is retired at Montana.
“The state of Montana loves its football. It really does. And it’s proud of the people that are from there,” Dickenson said. “Basically, if you have any relative or any ties to Montana and you’ve done something special in sports as well as anything else, Montana’s going to adopt you. … You know, we’re proud of where we’re from, and we think we play some pretty good football.”