New Colts QB Exudes Confidence

In 1995, when the internet was young, I was a sports reporter for WRTV-TV in Indianapolis, Indiana and covered the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. In addition to my normal TV duties, I was also putting regular team news and updates online in a rudimentary website, what today would be recognized as a blog. Those files survive, and I’m reproducing them here from time to time for posterity.

Anderson, Ind.: Craig Erickson grew up in West Palm Beach1Where he played football at Cardinal Newman High School. I actually broadcast his final high school game., played college football at the University of Miami, and played his first three years of pro football in Tampa. Yet, the prospect of spending his falls and winters in the chill of the Midwest was something he warmed to immediately upon hearing of his trade to the Colts in April.

“I was excited,” Erickson admitted after a recent break between two-a-day practices. “This is a team on the verge. We’ve got an offense that is an excellent system, with some good coaching and some great players on it, and a head coach that’s an offensive-minded coach, and those three factors really excited me. I had my bags packed.”

Those bags were barely unpacked before Erickson was named the Colts’ new starting quarterback. Head Coach Ted Marchibroda made the move on the first day of the team’s minicamp, relegating last year’s starter,Jim Harbaugh, to a backup role.

“You have to put guys in order at some time,” said Erickson. “We’re going to put the best 11 guys on the field, and we’re out here in training camp competing, and Jim and Paul (Justin) both are playing excellent football right now, and that’s good because we need three guys in here that can play, and all three of us are doing a good job.”

Erickson felt he had done a good job for the Buccaneers, starting 30 of 32 games the past two years, while becoming only the second quarterback in Tampa Bay history to toss more career touchdown passes (34) than interceptions (31). Still, the Bucs spent their first-round draft pick in 1994 on Trent Dilfer, and with the pressure on Coach Sam Wyche to play the marquee draftee, Erickson became expendable.

“I have no hard feelings,” said the 26-year old. “They did what they had to do. Obviously, you would like everybody to want you, and I don’t necessarily know that that wasn’t the case, but they made a decision that was in their best interests, and I think they kind of looked out for me. There’s a lot of good people down there, and a lot of good memories.”

One memory that’s not so good for Erickson is that of the 1991 season. Sitting out with a knee injury after being drafted in the fourth round by Philadelphia, Erickson spent the fall as a graduate assistant coach at the University of Georgia, where he helped tutor All-SEC quarterback Eric Zeier.

“Sitting out a year was probably as tough a year as I’ve ever had. I made the most of it, going up and coaching football, staying involved in it,” related Erickson. “You realize how much you miss the game. When you get an injury, and you sit out for a couple of weeks, and the guys are out there doing their thing, yeah, that’s work, but it’s also a lot of fun. That’s what we get paid to do is have a lot of fun, and play a game that we love.”

Erickson also loves Lindy Infante’s offensive system and his supporting cast, including running back Marshall Faulk, wide receiver Flipper Anderson and fullback Roosevelt Potts, who he calls “big-play guys.”

But is Erickson a “big-play guy”?

“I think there’s going to be opportune times for me to make some plays, and I have to step up and do that,” said Erickson.” But, it’s easy for a quarterback to lose a game, it’s very hard to win it by himself. I’m going to get the ball in the hands of the athletes as soon as possible. That’s not to say that we’re not going to throw deep nine times in a row, because we will.”

Gary Hogeboom, Chris Chandler and Jeff George all came to the Colts with high expectations, too, and all ended up elsewhere after a few years. Erickson feels his experience will be different.

“Well, the funny thing is, I know a lot of those guys,” chuckled Erickson,” and they’re actually some pretty good friends of mine. I think every situation, obviously, gets a little different, and I’m going to make the most of this one. I think everything’s set to have a good year, for the team, most importantly, to have a great year, and that’s my number one goal.”

CRAIG ERICKSON’S CAREER STATISTICS WITH TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
YearGGSAtt.Cmp.Pct.YardsAvg.gainTD-PctInt-Pct.Rating
199260261557.71214.650-0.00-0.069.9
1993161545723351.030546.6818-3.921-4.666.4
1994151539922556.429197.3016-4.010-2.582.5
Career373088247353.66,0946.9134-3.931-3.573.8

2024 UPDATE: Erickson lasted one year in Indianapolis, started the first two games and lost his number one position to Harbaugh, who went on to lead the Colts to within a Hail Mary of the Super Bowl. Released in camp in 1996, he signed with the Dolphins, where he spent the final two seasons of his pro career backing up Dan Marino. The Bucs used the first-round pick they acquired from Indianapolis on North Carolina defensive end Marcus Jones, who spent four years as a backup and two as a starter before being released. His pro career was over before he turned 30.

Kenn Tomasch

Kenn Tomasch

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