The rocking chair and blankie are going to have to wait a while longer for Dennis Erickson.
The Coeur d’Alene resident and two-time national championship college football coach at Miami (1989 and 1991) is flat-out unable to hang up his cleats. Erickson, who also coached the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, was announced last week as the first head coach of Alliance Salt Lake, one of eight teams in the start-up Alliance of American Football League. By our count, it will be his 18th football coaching job.
Erickson, who also led the Idaho Vandals in two separate stints, is a 71-year-old walking, talking advertisement for the joy of doing what you love to do. And if you can get paid for it? So much the better.
“I got tired of hooking it out of bounds and hitting it right all the time, so I thought I better get back in coaching and have a little bit of fun,” Erickson told the Salt Lake Tribune. “Golf gets old after a while.”
Golf might get old, but Erickson apparently doesn’t. Those who know Coach could see him just itching to get back in the game after retiring as a University of Utah assistant coach last year.
Not every AARP-eligible elder goes back to work or keeps on workin’ because she or he wants to. According to national statistics, about 20 percent of people 65 and older are working at least part-time. Many do so because it’s a financial imperative. A recent AP article published in The Press noted that even though the average retirement age is now about 62, disappearance of pensions and high costs of health care are among reasons some Americans are working until age 70 before taking Social Security benefits.
On the other hand, a lot of older workers are doing so because they don’t want to be bored; they enjoy the engagement with other people, especially in low-pressure positions. It’s also a simple fact of life that we all like to be part of something worthwhile, even if it’s not momentous or awe-inspiring.
No, the inspiration today comes from one of the more humble and sincere denizens of the Lake City, Dennis Erickson. We somewhat more silvered citizens applaud him for his continued passion for and excellence doing something he loves. We won’t even hold it against him that in his return to the University of Idaho, he bailed on the Vandals after only one year.
Well, not much, anyway.
Friends and colleagues of the late, great Ric Clarke are invited to a celebration of his life July 8 from 9 to 11 a.m. at The Roosevelt Inn, 105 E. Wallace Ave. in downtown Coeur d’Alene.
Clarke, a longtime former Press journalist and all-around good guy, died March 22 at the age of 68.