Bob Lind, Published February 09 2014
Neighbors: Coach made powerful impression on young referee
Merril, originally of Elgin, N.D., and now of Moorhead, was attending what now is called Dickinson (N.D.) State University in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and he refereed basketball games to raise a little money. “Not much, but a little,” he says.
One night he was officiating a game involving St. Mary’s High School of New England, N.D.; Merril doesn’t recall the other team.
(The other referee, although not part of this story, was LeRoy “Pudge” Beaudoin, Bismarck, whose son Doug went on to play professional football.)
Anyhow, Merril says, this game was close, a real nail-biter.
Then a foul was called on a St. Mary’s player. But as the other team’s player went to the foul line, the St. Mary’s coach came off the bench, wanting to put in a substitute player before the foul shot.
“He got the sub in, and the game went on,” Merril says. “But that coach was so enthusiastic, so fired up – I’ll never forget it.”
Who won the game? Today, it makes little difference. But that coach decades ago made a powerful impression on the young referee with his unbridled enthusiasm.
You may have heard of him. He eventually became coach of the North Dakota State Bison football team and of the New England Patriots: Ron Erhardt.
A few years later, Merril decided he wanted to become a veterinarian, so he went to NDSU to enroll in pre-vet classes.
One of those classes was chemistry, and Merril was having trouble getting into it.
One day, who should he run into on campus but Coach Erhardt. Merril told him about the chemistry class issue.
Well, Erhardt told him, if he didn’t make the class and missed out on his plans, Erhardt would make him a coach and send him on a scouting trip to Crookston, Minn.
Merril did get into the class, however, and eventually became a veterinarian.
He’s now retired, with time to think back on his years taking care of people’s pets.
One of them was a cat owned by that super-enthusiastic coach, Ron Erhardt.
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