Fresh off a career-defining victory in the Grey Cup as a Canadian Football League head coach, legendary Montana quarterback Dave Dickenson doesn’t have long to bask in the celebratory glow around Calgary before hitting the road again.
In a few short days, he and his family will board a plane and head for the Big Apple to celebrate another career defined by championships as Dickenson is officially inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
The “Legend of the Fall” heads to New York for the National Football Foundation’s Dec. 4 Awards Banquet having just completed a rare superfecta of championships in his career, something no one else in the star-studded class of 2018 can claim.
Dickenson was a two-time state champion at C.M. Russel High School in Great Falls, Montana. At UM he led the Grizzlies to a pair of Big Sky championships and the 1995 national championship as the Walter Payton Award Winner. As a pro quarterback, he was a three-time Grey Cup champion and the game’s MVP in 2006. “Super Dave” put the cherry on top of an already stellar career this past Sunday, winning his first Grey Cup as a head coach.
Now he’s preparing to cap an unbelievable week with the honor of a lifetime.
“It’s a whirlwind up here right now,” Dickenson told GoGriz.com.
“It has certainly been a great year, 2018. I’d like to think this New York trip will be one of the things I can say that I’ll always look back on, and share with my family.
“We’re going to make it a week, basically, that will be the best memories of our lives.”
Dickenson and his family will get the chance to rub elbows with some of the greatest players and coaches to ever take the field at the Awards Banquet, an event the NFF believes to be “one of the most memorable in history” thanks to its A-list lineup.
“Some of them I remember when I was in the NFL, they were playing. I remember running into Kerry Collins and how big he was,” laughed Dickenson.
“Megatron (former Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson), to me, is as good a receiver as there has been. I mean, he and Jerry Rice are probably top two.”
But in his own Montana way, Dickenson is seeing through the bright lights of the big city and the names that have dominated football headlines for decades and is looking forward to surrounding himself with people he knows he has one thing in common with: the great game of football.
“These guys are big-time names. But I’m just going to be me. Go over there and try to fit in a little bit. If they want to chat a little ball - they may or may not know about Montana or the CFL - they might, and if they don’t, no biggie. I’ll just enjoy being with them and being part of a great class,” Dickenson said.
While it’s the main draw for the who’s-who of the football world, the Hall of Fame induction is just one part of the event, with 13 of the game’s current stars set to collect $241,000 in postgraduate scholarships as members of the 2018 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class. The 13 student-athletes will also vie as finalists for the coveted William V. Campbell Trophy, which will be awarded during the event for the 29th time to the nation’s top football scholar-athlete.
Montana alum and Rhodes Scholarship finalist Derek Crittenden was a Campbell Trophy finalist in 2015. Known as the “Academic Heisman,” the Whitefish, Montana, native traveled to New York for NFF Awards Banquet before going on to post-graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Many people have come together to support this year’s Annual Awards Dinner, and their efforts promise to make the event a celebration for the ages. We thank them all,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “As a bridge between the regular season and the bowl season, the NFF Dinner provides a unique setting where we briefly set aside intense rivalries to join together to celebrate our sport. If you’re passionate about college football, there will be no better place to be on Dec. 4.”
Since 1958, when U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower took a break from the election trail to accept the NFF Gold Medal at the inaugural event, the NFF Annual Awards Dinner has proven to be one of our nation’s most magnetic affairs, attracting giants of industry and leaders from all walks of life to New York City. The 2018 banquet marks the 61st edition, and the event has become the one night of the year that brings together all entities of college football, even bitter rivals, to celebrate the game. This year marks the second time the event will be held at the New York Hilton Midtown.
“The National Football Foundation represents everything right about our great sport, and this night simply features the best and brightest of college football,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “The accomplishments of our 2018 honorees make us all proud while providing us the ultimate vehicle for inspiring future generations to follow in their footsteps.”
Dickenson is only the third person from the state of Montana to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. The others: Grizzly great William “Wild Bill” Kelly who was inducted in 1969 and former head coach Bernie Bierman, who coached Grizzly football and basketball from 1919-1921 before winning five national championships at the University of Minnesota.
Named the greatest male athlete in the history of the Big Sky Conference, only three other players from the league have been enshrined: John Friesz (Idaho), Frank Hawkins (Nevada), and Randy Trautman (Boise State).
Dickenson is also the only player from the FCS/DI-AA ranks to be inducted in 2018. Only 997 players and 217 coaches have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame from the nearly 5.26 million who have played or coached the game during the past 149 years. Meaning fewer than two one-hundredths of a percent (.02%) of the individuals who have played the game have been deemed worthy of this distinction.
In September, Dickenson returned to Montana for an on-campus salute to celebrate his induction into the Hall of Fame, with the Griz donning copper and gold uniforms to mark the occasion. Next week’s ceremony in New York will bring the celebration full circle and cap one heck of a year for the Grizzly legend.
“I had a great experience down there in Missoula in September. It will be tough to top that as well, but just to kind of lock it all in, and be around football guys,” Dickenson added.
“It should be a great event.”
The 61st NFF Annual Awards Dinner is December 4.
With more than 70 current collegiate head coaches and more than 40 returning members of the College Football Hall of Fame in attendance, the night will feature several well-known football luminaries. ESPN3 will stream the Annual Awards Dinner live, beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET.