MISSOULA — Nine days after winning the Grey Cup, former Montana Grizzly standout Dave Dickenson will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
The ceremony, part of the National Football Foundation's annual awards dinner, will start at 6:30 p.m. MT Tuesday and can be streamed on ESPN3.
Dickenson’s Grey Cup victory is his first championship as a head coach. He won two state titles at Great Falls CMR before guiding the Griz to the 1995 FCS national championship. Playing in the CFL, he won three Grey Cups and was the MVP of the 2006 championship game. He was the offensive coordinator on Calgary’s 2014 championship team.
Dickenson has already been inducted into the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
406mtsports.com caught up with Dickenson to discuss the Grey Cup win, his future coaching plans, the upcoming induction ceremony in New York and a Cat-Griz game for the ages.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
Q: What were the 24 to 48 hours after winning the Grey Cup like for you?
A: You’re happy, but then you feel this relief like, ‘Good, we were able to finally get it done.’ After you realize you did that, it’s more kind of getting your people around you. My brother’s in town, my family was there, was good to see them, had my son jump on stage with me and go to my press conference. Those are memories you can’t ever replace. There’s not a lot of down time as a coach. You’re already worried about who’s coming back, how do we get these coaches signed for next year, how do we get our players who are free agents signed, what’s our schedule going to be for the offseason. You don’t have a lot of time to chill. That’s why I’m so excited to get to New York and get away from it. It’s been fun. We’ve had a lot of things go on in the town up here, a lot of support, rallies, hockey game, went out on the town.
Q: You said after the game that you didn’t think your life would have been the same without a title as a head coach. Why not? And what do you think you proved to yourself by winning as a head coach?
A: When you get into something, you should have a goal and be working toward that. When I got into coaching, I didn’t think I needed a head coaching title. But once I started going down that path, I felt like I’ve always wanted to be at the top of the mountain. I’m always a guy that I don’t want to settle for anything that I don’t consider my best and the team’s best. I felt it was very realistic and we had gotten there twice and weren’t able to get it done. Once you’ve been there and you haven’t got it done, now you’re kind of getting known as the coach who couldn’t win the big one. I didn’t want to be that guy. I’m hoping to get a lot more opportunities, but I also felt like I needed that to validate the way I coach, the way our program is set up, all the hard work, the right hires, the right players. I wanted to get that validation that a championship can do for you.
Q: Any desire to try to win a title as a general manager?
A: I don’t even know what a general manager does. (Laughs.) Obviously, they have a lot of say in personnel and hiring. But as far as when it gets to on the field, I feel most comfortable being part of what happens between the sidelines. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a good feeling, but I think it would be the best feeling to have a little bit more direct say, and the first thing to do that is be a player, and the second part is be a coach.
Q: Do you want to try coaching in college or the NFL or these newer leagues popping up?
A: I’m not going to say I don’t. Sometimes you got to be happy with what you got. I really like the CFL because it allows you to have a life outside of football. I’m selfish with my family time. The pros and college, maybe you’d be able to work yourself towards that. College, I could probably come in somewhere fairly high, but who knows. It might happen. For me, my daughter just turned 14, she’s in eighth grade, and my son’s in sixth grade, so I’d like to keep as much stability and continuity as I can. I’ve got a good thing going up here. I’m pretty happy with where I’m at. I certainly haven’t been contacted by any NFL teams or anything like that. I don’t even have an agent. My agent was Ken Staninger from Missoula; he passed away a few years ago and just haven’t had the desire to replace him. I’m kind of just on my own. (Dickenson has two more years remaining on his current contract.)
Q: Have you ever been to New York before, and what are your expectations and plans?
A: I’ve been to New York, played two games there as part of Miami and Seattle. I also tried out for the Jets in 2001, didn’t get signed. It was in and out, get picked up or bused to your hotel. When I was playing, I wasn’t out at night, just in my hotel eating, getting ready for games. So haven’t really seen what New York is about. We’re going to make it a full week with the family, go to Broadway and live TV shows and see things that you see just on TV and in the movies, and enjoy some good food. You'd think I’m not the type of guy that I’d be looking forward to that, but I really am. I love live performances, I like music. I want to do something different than get pigeonholed in football, football, football. I’m excited to do something that not’s really offered here in Calgary. You’re talking about the best in the world in New York.
Q: Do you know or have you crossed paths with any of the other inductees?
A: Don’t know any of them. I’ve seen them play. I remember Kerry Collins, the year we played the Giants, I do remember him as far as I was on the sideline. A coach I coached with up here, Cornell Brown, he played for Frank Beamer and went back to work for him at Virginia Tech. I know all their names. It’s a matter of do you really know someone. For me, Charles Woodson is huge because I remember him being up for the Heisman with Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning, and Charles wins it. That’s a moment in my life. I actually was watching the show live and remember it vividly. It’s just one of those things. I’m a big Nebraska fan. When I think of Nebraska, I always think of the trenches and the O-Line, so it’s fitting to have a couple of the big boys getting in there with me as well. (Former Nebraska center/guard Aaron Taylor and former Georgia tackle Matt Stinchcomb are inductees.)
Q: Who are you most excited to meet?
A: I’m the low man on the totem pole. I’m just excited to meet the whole group, just to be a part of it. I think all of us have our own stories. We’re all pretty proud of where we came from and what we were able to accomplish. To me, it’s a crazy that a kid from Montana is joining this group. Never thought I’d make it. I didn’t even think about it until my brother brought it up and nominated me. This is as good as it gets.
Q: This is a 10-day stretch from winning the Grey Cup to getting inducted. Can you think of a 10-day stretch for yourself like that before?
A: Not really. It’s just crazy. It’s two separate parts of your life; they’re football related, but they’re not connected. To be honest, I was just trying to put all my focus into the regular season and try to win and then let New York handle it.
Q: Did you get to watch the Cat-Griz game up there?
A: I don’t get a feed up here. I was on my computer, so I did the Game Center where all it does is type in the next play. But, man, it was stressful even then because you’re waiting like, ‘Reload, reload. What happened?’ To see how it went down and not really know the real details and then I called my dad and was like, ‘What happened?’ He told me. It was pretty suspenseful and nerve-wracking even though I'm all the way up here. It was a crazy finish, no doubt.
Q: I know you have a bet with (former Bobcat) Alex Singleton about Cat-Griz. What has to change to get this rivalry back to where the Griz are dominating?
A: I think the best rivalries are those that are give and take. Even back in our day, I think when I got through there it was somewhere in the realm of 12 or 13 in a row. I really don’t think that’s what makes a rivalry. I think you want some give and take, some back and forth. I’m ready for the Griz to start taking it. I mean, three years in a row. We’ve had a wager three years. It seemed to me like it was one of the best games, most classic games ever in the Brawl of the Wild. I believe both schools are on solid footing, both schools have good coaches, players, facilities. I do believe it’ll be a little more give and take down the road. I love having both schools doing well. I’d love to see the Griz beat them every year, but I think as far as when you talk about rivalry games, it is nice to have both schools win some and have really close games. I think that’s where we’re at these days.