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Erickson trades in his helmet for a graduation cap

Senior Chandler Erickson stands smiling in the middle the University of Minnesota, Morris campus because he, a two-sport Cougar athlete, will graduate with his bachelor’s degree in sports management on Saturday, May 13 at UMM graduation. (Brooke Kern / Sun Tribune)1 / 3
Chandler Erickson looks for the signal from head coach Grant Harding during the 2017 baseball season. Erickson was a regular in the Cougar lineup since his freshman season at UMM. (Brooke Kern / Sun Tribune)2 / 3
Chandler Erickson looks up field to return a kick during the 2016 football season at the University of Minnesota, Morris. Erickson was a four-year starter at defensive back and was a kick returner for the Cougars. (Brooke Kern / Sun Tribune)3 / 3

Sports have always been a top priority for University of Minnesota, Morris senior and Chokio native Chandler Erickson. That is why he chose to enroll at UMM, so he could play both football and baseball for the Cougars. His love of sports led him to major in sports management. Erickson will trade in his athletic helmets for a graduation cap as he will walk across the stage and receive his bachelor's degree in sports management at UMM graduation on Saturday, May 13.

"Being recruited by UMM for both sports was the thing that got me to choose Morris. I knew I wanted to play football in college pretty early on, probably after my freshman football season at Chokio-Alberta," Erickson said in an email interview. "I don't really have a defining reason other than there really is nothing better than playing under the lights on Friday night. [Playing] baseball was kind of a bonus after being recruited by [UMM baseball] coach [Grant] Harding. Once I got [to UMM], the sport management classes were where I was most interested. Obviously there are going to be classes you aren't in love with, but the professors and classes in the major were perfect for me, and they were classes [that] I enjoyed going to."

While sports have always been a top priority for Erickson, he was able to find a balance between academics and athletics while at UMM.

"I think it is fair to say that Chandler approaches academics just like he does everything else - with a desire to be the best he can be," said Tim Grove, who was one of Erickson's professors while at UMM. "He is a serious student and works hard to be as prepared as he can be. And that, in my opinion, is an extension to how he approaches athletics, too."

"Being a college student-athlete is very demanding, but Chandler embraced the challenge and performed amazingly," said Matt Johnson, who is an assistant football coach and was Erickson's Adviser throughout his collegiate career at UMM. "During his four years here, he was essentially in-season all the time by playing both football and baseball, and he still carried a great GPA. Chandler made a dedicated effort to being the best student and athlete he could here at UMM."

Erickson found out quickly during his freshman year that finding the balance between athletics and academics was critical to succeed on and off the field.

"My first semester opened my eyes for sure," Erickson said. "After that, I just figured out what I had to do to get everything done on time and get to all meetings and practices on time. Everyone always says college is about time management and they are exactly right, and being in athletics at the same time makes it that much more important."

He learned the demands of athletics were helpful.

"If anything I think athletics helped me because it didn't give me an option to sit around doing nothing. Once you find your groove and know how to approach everything, it just becomes your routine." Erickson said. "Freshman year was definitely a learning experience, but luckily in high school I was able to take classes for college credit so that helped out a ton in the long run. After I got through my general classes and started into my major classes I just became more interested and it came a little easier."

While Erickson learned more about time management, Johnson and Grove said Erickson's high school career helped prepare him for the athletic fields as well as the classroom.

"I really think it is a continuation of what Chandler did in high school," Grove said. "Student athletes are so busy and they have to be really good at balancing their time, prioritizing their to-do lists, and making good choices. Chandler has done that here at UMM. You can't have the success he has had - both on the field and in the classroom - without being able to do these things well."

"Chandler's time at C-A for school and MACA for football definitely prepared him for his time here at UMM," Johnson said. "Academically he hit the ground running, and truthfully never really struggled with a semester.

Erickson was able to develop, not only in the classroom and as a person, but as an athlete throughout his four years at UMM.

"My career at UMM has been awesome. I was lucky enough to contribute to both sports early on when I got [to UMM]," Erickson said. "The most satisfying thing in my mind is the fact that both sports have gained respect and were more successful my final seasons than my first seasons. As for academics, I am grateful to receive my degree from the University of Minnesota, Morris and am looking forward to the future."

"Chandler has developed into an excellent leader in the athletic department. He has been a captain on both the football and baseball teams, and was recently recognized as the top senior athlete (Arnold Henjum Award) as voted on by the UMM coaching staff," Grove said. "The coaches that know him best speak to how his confidence continued to grow throughout his time [at UMM]."

"From a football perspective his ability to help in multiple facets of the game was incredibly valuable. We brought him in as a WR, but after looking at our depth and talent that first year, we made the move for him to the defensive secondary where he ended up being a 4-year starter," Johnson said. "He had a special career. "

Erickson will be leaving the playing field at UMM, but he will enter a different field after graduation.

"After graduation I want to continue helping on our family farm and one day take over for my dad," Erickson said. "I know this is the area I want to continue to live in and am excited for what is to come. I will continue to play town team baseball for Chokio in the summers, but other than that my playing days end with my last games at UMM. Coaching is something that I'm excited to get into, at any level in either sport. Hopefully I can give out as much help as I have received. I want to thank all the coaches and teachers that have helped me from elementary school to high school and now here at UMM. It has been a blast!"

"This will sound cliche', but Chandler has grown into an outstanding man," Johnson said. "People say all the time, that there are student-athletes that they will remember for a long time, but that's the honest truth with Chan. He gave us everything he had on the field and in the classroom, just very proud of him!"

Brooke Kern

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