MISSOULA —  Dave Dickenson knows he doesn't look the part. He never has.

Dickenson was too small to play for his junior high's "A" team and as a 5-foot-11, 175-pound quarterback in college, the Great Falls native was generally underestimated. 

"I've always been smaller. If I wasn't so damn stubborn I might have quit football because I was getting crushed at a young age," Dickenson said Friday. "I wouldn't give up and that has served me well in the long term. Those are the type of life lessons if you pay attention to them, you figure it out. That's probably what makes you who you are."

He added: "You're only born with what you've got, so figure it out and take advantage of it."

Dickenson did just that for the Grizzlies in the 1990s, as he led the Grizzlies to their first national football championship and garnered nearly every possible accolade a college quarterback could.

He's won the Walter Payton Award. He earned All-America status twice and Academic All-America status three times. He was the Big Sky Offensive MVP three times. He was a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete. All of which earned him the nickname "Super Dave."

Now, Dickenson, head coach of the CFL's Calgary Stampeders, will be the second Montana Grizzly enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. 

Dickenson is back on campus this weekend as a part of the National Football Foundation's "On Campus Salute," a tradition recognizing Hall of Famers at their university ahead of the December induction ceremony.

"What I think's so cool about the College Football Hall of Fame is they recognize, 'What sort of impact did you make (on your) community, school?" Dickenson said. "Yeah, you have to be a damn good football player but, 'What else could you do?' I think I did stack up pretty good on those areas.

"For them to weight that and give me extra weight on those type of areas and understand we're all doing the same thing, whether you're NAIA, NCAA Division I, it doesn't really matter, we're just trying to get a good education and play for our schools and try to accomplish something special.

"For these guys to put the cherry on the top, I think it says a lot about where we're at. Obviously I never thought I'd play pro. I never thought I could make any Hall of Fame. But things have worked out."


Great Falls is Dickenson's hometown, but Missoula holds a special place in his heart, too. 

"I really shouldn't need an excuse to come back here because this is the best place in the world. I'm very proud to be a part of this group," Dickenson said.

Dickenson will be inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside nine other players, including the likes of Charles Woodson, Calvin Johnson and Aaron Taylor, in a ceremony in New York City on Dec. 4. 

Dickenson said he hasn't been to a Griz game in Missoula in more than a decade, making his on-campus reunion that much more special.

"I haven't watched a Griz game now in 13 years, which I don't know why," Dickenson said. "I gotta get off my butt, but I do think it's going to be (fun). The quality of athletes you're getting these days, to see what this stadium is all about, the fan support still is about as good as anywhere in the nation, it's going to be a great day."

He's had a valid excuse for his absence.

Dickenson has been the head coach of the CFL's Calgary Stampeders since 2016 and has been involved with the team as a player or a coach since 2008.

He's coached the Stampeders to the Grey Cup in each of the past two years, falling to the Ottawa Redblacks in overtime in 2016 and losing a 27-24 heartbreaker to the Toronto Argonauts last season. 

Because of his head coaching duties, making it back to Montana has been difficult. That's what makes Dickenson being in Missoula this weekend, during the CFL season, all the more special. 

"It is fortunate, obviously, to get it to line up," Dickenson said. 

He added: "To me, and I've heard this from other people, the salute at your university might be as fun and as special as anything because you're around the people that helped you along the way and made you. It's going to be cool and walk out [onto the field]. I'm hoping for a big win. Every time you have something cool that happens it puts on your plate, if the school can back you up and get the big win. It's hitting me, but it'll also be a little surreal just getting around the guys who are in this class and realize you're part of the history books now in a positive way and I'm pretty excited about it."


Dickenson is the sixth player from the Big Sky Conference to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and just the ninth to be enshrined in both the college group and the CFL Hall of Fame. 

"It's indeed rare air," said Matthew Sign, the chief operating officer of the National Football Foundation. 

There are a few hoops to jump through to be eligible for the Hall of Fame.

A player needs to be 10 years removed from college and can't be an active professional player. In addition, he needs to be nominated by his school. 

"This is up there," Dickenson said of where this ranks among his football achievements. "It's a team game, there's no doubt about it. It's special though, no doubt. I think it hits home as you see your teammates and all that. We were talking about, the numbers are insane. I wasn't even sure they'd let a guy from Montana in, anyway."

Of the approximately 5.5 million players who have set foot on a college football field since the sport's inception in 1869, only 997 have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. That equates to roughly 0.02 percent. 

"I feel like I'm representing our team, our university, the state of Montana. I hope people are proud. Did I ever think I was going to get in? No. I had this dream though that it might happen," Dickenson said. "… I've always told my players, you're going to be a part of history regardless. Make sure it's positive. Make sure it's the mark you want. We write our own story."

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Amie Just covers Griz football and Missoula-area preps. Follow her on Twitter @Amie_Just or email her at Amie.Just@406mtsports.com.

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