Erickson set the tone through hard work, sacrifice
In many ways, naming Jake Erickson the 2022 Henry W. Schultz Award winner came with a tinge of irony.
Erickson never competed with individual recognition or a personal spotlight in mind. He often had an “off the grid” mentality, as Dodger football coach Nik Moser explained. So the notoriety of being recognized as the top male athlete in this year’s senior class didn’t exactly fit with Erickson’s comfort zone.
“Jake’s just a nose-to-the-grindstone guy,” Moser said. “I know it’s normal for someone to say an athlete worked hard, put the time in the weight room, led by example and was easy to get along with. But in Jake’s case, it’s not just coach speak. It was never about him or the accolades.
“He was always looking to go the extra mile. I know he’s going to be successful (in the real world), because he’s not afraid to put in the work. He never complained. Instead of saying something can’t be done, he just finds ways to take care of it.”
Erickson was a first team all-state football player, garnering honors for his efforts as a safety. The program’s co-captain was a Top-5 tackler in Class 4A.
Fort Dodge won seven regular-season games for the fifth time since 2009, after doing so on only four different occasions from 1951-2008.
“It means a lot to be recognized as (the 97th annual) Schultz Award (recipient),” said Erickson, who plans on training to be a power lineman. “There have been many great (former winners), so it’s an honor to be up there with those guys.
“I hope I’m remembered as a hard-nosed (athlete)…someone you can always have a conversation with, and a humble person.”
Nothing exemplified Erickson’s no-excuses demeanor more than his reaction to an injury at the midway point in the grid season last fall.
“Jake played with a fracture in his kneecap during the last five games of the year,” Moser said. “Not many players would even consider doing something like that, let alone pull it off and still be as effective as he was.
“He wasn’t going to make excuses and he didn’t want to miss the rest of his senior season.”
Erickson was also a state track standout who competed in Des Moines as both a junior and a senior. He picked up two medals on FDSH relay teams in 2021.
Erickson noted the fierce competition for the Schultz Award, which included classmates like Ben Egli, Jace Ulrich and Carson Peterson, among others.
“Those guys all busted their tails and never gave up,” Erickson said. “It meant a lot just to be in the conversation (as an elite male senior athlete). They are hard workers, and I was honored just to have my name mentioned with them.”
“You’d take kids like them every year,” Moser said. “They were all tough and good leaders. Class acts.”
Erickson pointed to the influence of his cousin and volunteer FDSH coach Keaton Martin, a former Prairie Valley standout.
“He’s always been a hard worker and helped me with a lot both on and off the field.”
Now that his time as a Dodger is done, Erickson had some advice for future Fort Dodge athletes.
“Bust your tail day in and day out,” Erickson said. “Always stay focused on your goal, and don’t stop until you achieve it. Don’t take anything for granted. Work in silence.
“Being a Dodger means a lot of different things, but what stands out to me is that we never give up. We’re hard-nosed and always have a chip on our shoulder, while pushing ourselves and others to be better people.”