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Clint's legacy: Brother's death molded player, program

Whitnall player's death molded brother, school's football program

Nov. 23, 2009

Greenfield — During a Secret Santa family tradition Christmas gift exchange in 2005, Clint Erickson gave his younger brother Scott the all-Woodland Conference medal he earned that fall.

Scott, then in eighth grade, was already showing signs of being a special player himself, and Clint was coming off a year in which he totaled more than 900 yards of offense and scored 11 touchdowns for the Whitnall Falcons.

Attached to the medal was a note that read, "Scott, you can have mine as a reminder to work hard … until you get yours. Love, Clint."

"He wanted to be all-conference and all-state," Scott said. "He gave it everything he had. He worked extremely hard for that medal. He spent his whole life perfecting his ability."

A life that was too short. On Jan. 28, 2006, Clint, 18, was killed in a car crash when a drunken driver barreled his van into a Honda Civic in which Erickson was a passenger. Two of Clint's classmates and friends, Sam Seyedin and Tyler Lubbers, also were in the car and survived.

The accident shaped the young man Scott is today and has had a lasting impression on the Whitnall football program.

Brother inspires early on

Scott, now a senior, nearly gave up football five years ago. He broke his leg during a seventh-grade football game and was ready to quit for good before Clint, then a junior, invited him to the sidelines of a varsity game that fall.

The experience was enough to keep Scott interested in playing football, and Clint's death nearly 15 months later pushed Scott to excel at it.

Scott spent three years as an offensive and defensive lineman on Whitnall's varsity team. The two-time all-conference choice earned a spot on the NOW All-Suburban Team and an honorable mention nod on the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association all-state team this fall. He is debating pursuing track or football in college, possibly at a University of Wisconsin system school.

"Ever since he wrote that note to me, I've been super determined not to let him down and doing just about everything in my power to make him proud," Scott said.

Clint undoubtedly would have been proud of Scott's junior campaign. In his second year as a varsity starter, Scott helped the Falcons snap a seven-year playoff drought, and Scott earned a first-team all-conference medal of his own.

At the season-ending award banquet, Whitnall coach Rob Leboeuf called up his all-conference selections one by one. He saved Scott for last. Before Scott even reached Leboeuf, the coach was in tears. When he handed Scott his all-conference medal, he told him, "Now you'll be able to give Clint his medal back."

"Scott had made some promises to Clint and one of them was he'd be all-conference and get his own medal," Leboeuf said. "I was very happy to present that medal to him on that stage.

"He made another promise to win a conference title. When we lost to Eisenhower, Scott really took it hard and said he failed, that he let his brother down. It's absolutely not true. He's had to overcome the toughest loss, and that's losing your hero."

More than just a coach

Scott's support group includes his family - parents Dean and Ramona, Grant and younger sister Mary - and close friends like fellow lineman, junior Nathan Marshall. But Scott called Leboeuf a brother/father figure whom he has relied heavily on during hard times, someone to talk to about life, football or Clint.

And Leboeuf is happy to be there for Scott. His fondness for the Ericksons began in 2004, when Clint's junior year coincided with Leboeuf's first as head coach at Whitnall. Clint was on the first of consecutive winless Whitnall teams in 2005 and is a chief reason why Leboeuf speaks so passionately about those lean years.

"I loved those teams. They practiced so hard and Clint was the straw that stirred the drink," Leboeuf said. "He kept them motivated to compete."

Clint's effort in practice and desire to get better with every repetition, even when wins were hard to come by and losing was eminent, helped set the tone for the Whitnall program for years to come. Subsequent players and teams have built on Clint's lead, and it is no small coincidence that Scott has been a focal point of that effort the last four years.

"He practices against his brother," Leboeuf said. "He's competing with him because he wants so much to be like him. It's helped hold Scott accountable and it's also helped our program immensely.

"If anything positive happened - I still don't know if anything did - but it's helped Scott generate positive peer pressure. He's making blocks for you and making tackles for you and lifting weights for you. It's hard to screw up (off the field) and look him in the eye knowing what he's gone through."

'A better person'

Clint's passing affected Scott in many ways that go beyond football. Scott was a self-described outsider prior to Clint's death, but opened up more with classmates and his family after the accident, and mimicked Clint's outgoing personality. People say Scott talks like Clint did and their mother sees similarities in their mannerisms.

But it is Scott's outlook on life that has changed the most.

"People see that I am determined to be a better person," Scott said. "He set the bar high for me. I try to be like him in every way, and I try not to take things for granted as much.

"I try to look at his passing in a good way. I don't think I'd be as good a person as I am today. I wouldn't have as high morals and standards as I have today. His passing helped accelerate who I really wanted to be."

When Scott is going through a hard time or thinking about his brother, he often takes out Clint's all-conference medal and the accompanying note, using it as a source of comfort. He took it out when the Falcons beat Greendale by one point this fall, the team's first win over the Panthers in 10 years, as if to confirm with Clint that the brothers' collective hard work finally paid off.

Scott has accomplished so much on the football field, the two all-conference medals of his own the proof. But he'd trade them both for more time with his brother.

"If I had one wish, it would be to have 10 minutes to talk with him again," Scott said. "What would he think of me if he could see me now? I'd ask him questions I didn't get a chance to ask him. I'd ask him about sports and school and girlfriends. I'd want to talk to him about those things, even if it was for a little while. I think everyone close to him wishes the same thing."

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