“The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure criticism without resentment.” - Elbert Hubbard
Greatness is earned, not given automatically. On Tuesday night in Midtown-Manhattan, New York 15 greats from college football’s past were inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
On Tuesday morning two of the Pac-12’s best opened up about the College Football Hall of Fame induction.
Jake “The Snake” Plummer who remains one of the most popular Sun Devils of all-time seemed to take this honor in stride.
“I still can’t believe this happened for me. When I started playing ball this wasn’t anything that I set out to do. I didn’t even know about the College Football Hall of Fame when I was playing ball. However, when you stop playing and are retired and you start looking back on who helped you along the way it becomes a very humbling thing.” Plummer said.
Plummer was a quarterback for the Sun Devils that could move around, extend plays, and turn nothing into something. That type of play endured him to the Sun Devil fans. That adoration continues today with Sun Devil Nation.
“I am honored to represent all my teammates, coaches, and Arizona State in the Hall of Fame. It’s hard to put into words. Maybe it gives me a little more validation that it was meaningful for me. They can’t take you out of the hall and am definitely overwhelmed looking around at these other players going into the Hall of Fame and maybe they are looking at me thinking the same thing.” Plummer said with a smile.
Every great athlete has influences along the way that sparked something inside of them to be that “next level athlete”. For Jake Plummer it was his two older brothers.
“I had two older brothers that were three and almost six years older than me. They didn’t have to keep me around and let me play with them, but they did. My mom would tell my brothers ‘you can’t just kick Jake off the team if he isn’t good enough’ and they didn’t. That really instilled a desire in me to get better and to beat them. They were extremely influential in my development as a competitor and player.” Plummer explained.
I asked Plummer about his Rose Bowl experience. I think he could talk about that Sun Devil team for hours.
“Getting to the Rose Bowl is what your sights were set on if you were playing at the time Pac-10 football. To be honest, I was clueless about The Rose Bowl. I had watched The Rose Bowl on television, but I didn’t know that it was a Pac-10, Big Ten matchup. When I realized that is what the match up was I told myself ‘we got to get to the Rose Bowl’. For the first few years we were just trying to get to a bowl game. It made us work extremely hard in the off-season. It was tough getting there and losing, but you get over your tough losses and move on. We lost the Rose Bowl and we are the team that is revered in the Valley. People ask me who is the better team between our team and the ‘87 team. I tell them that it was the 1987 team because they won the Rose Bowl.” Plummer said.
You can say what you want about Dennis Erickson, but now you have to put in the phrase Hall of Fame Coach.
We spoke quite a bit about his time at Oregon State. Well, that is what he wanted to talk about.
We began by not talking about his career, but about how one of his former players, Jonathan Smith is doing up in Corvallis.
“In two years from where that thing was with that program Jonathan has done a fantastic job. They have done a great job recruiting, but the big thing with Jonathan is that he understands Corvallis and the school. He gets it. Jonathan will recruit players that not only fit the team concept, but will recruit the kid that fits Corvallis as well.” Erickson said with smile.
When Coach Erickson was talking about Coach Smith it was like a proud Dad talking about his son.
Dennis Erickson is a man who won two National Championships at Miami, took Oregon State to the Fiesta Bowl where the Beavers beat the wheels off of Notre Dame, and coached at Arizona State where he had bowl seasons as well. Erickson coached at the pro level, but in the end Coach Erickson left his mark on the collegiate level.
“This honor means a lot. It’s the highest honor you can receive. It’s special. I see coaches on the list that were idols for me. To come and be honored here it doesn’t get any better for me.” Erickson explained.
When I asked about how he built the program at Oregon State Erickson smiled.
“Well, Oregon State was the best time I ever had coaching. Winning National Championships at Miami was great, but the fun I had in Corvallis was something that is hard to put into words. The worst mistake I ever made was leaving Oregon State. We were able to go out and get some junior college players to help quickly. Players that had proven themselves on the field and knew what it took to play college football. It helped turn things around. Then Jonathan developed too. We had Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Jonathan Smith, and a great defense. That 2000 team, had there been a playoff at the time, might have been as good as anybody in the country.” Erickson said with assurance.
Jake Plummer and Dennis Erickson are certainly deserving of this phenomenal honor. They are the definition of greatness. The work ethic that they showed during their tenure in college is something that every single college coach and player should strive to emulate.