Grand Forks, N.D. - The North Dakota football program is welcoming back two of its own this Saturday to serve as alumni coaches for the Green and White Game. Former offensive lineman Bill Riviere will help coach the White Team, while former cornerback Erik Gunderson will assist the Green Team. UNDSports.com recently caught up with both of them to find out what they'ven been up to since their playing days.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at the Alerus Center with a full day of activities ranging from cooking competitions to kid's clinics taking place beforehand.
White Team Alumni Coach Bill Riviere (1988-91, OL, No. 58)
Riviere was an All-North Central Conference first team performer in both 1990 and 1991.
What are you up to now? My wife Renne (UND Volleybal; 1988-91) and myself are raising our family in Medina, Minn. We're busy driving our three kids (Aly, 14; Billy, 12; and Katy 9) to hockey, football, volleyball, lacrosse and many other activities. I'm currently a sales director at Compuware Corporation. I enjoy going to our cabin when time permits and going hunting and fishing.
What is your fondest memory of your playing career? Probably receiving the Male Athlete of the Year Award in 1991-92.
What is your most memorable game you were involved in? Well, unfortunately, it was a loss to the Bison in 1991. We had a chance to win late in fourth quarter, but we were stopped at the 3-yard line. It was a great game - hard fought by both sides. It was such a bummer. I don't want to think about it anymore.
Looking back, what is the thing you miss the most about being part of the UND football program? That is really pretty simple - hanging out with the team and all the different people associated with the program. I really met some fantastic people while at UND and still keep in touch with them today.
What is one thing you would share about your experience with the current team? I would tell them to enjoy the moment. It really is a special time in your life and something you will never forget.
What are you looking forward to most about being an alumni coach and back in Grand Forks this weekend? I'm looking forward to coming back with my Dad and son to watch the game and be a part of the action. It should be a lot of fun to be back on the sidelines.
Green Team Alumni Coach Erik Gunderson (1995-98, CB, No. 11)
What position and number did your wear at UND?
"As a freshman, nobody asked nor was I given any options for a number. They handed me No. 34 and I instantly thought, ‘great that's Shannon Burnell’s old number, just after his All-American career.' My other thought was watching Walter Payton and Bo Jackson growing up, my two favorite players to wear the number.
"I didn’t say anything and wore the number my freshman year at cornerback. When some new numbers became available after the season, I quickly snatched up No. 12 and while bringing it to my locker, a young Tony Stein, who would go on to earn the moniker of 'The Cogswell Cannon', politely asked me to trade numbers. I agreed and finished the rest of my career wearing No. 11, which coincidentally was a number I wanted as my older brother also wore No. 11 in high school and college."
What are you up to now?
"After 11 years in banking, I recently went out on my own to start investing in real estate and income producing properties. This is something I began pursuing early in my banking career. I currently live in Fargo where I met my wife. Ironically, my wife and I met through the Cogswell Cannon, the very guy I traded football numbers with many years ago. We have two little girls, Maci and Teagan. Our Irish twins (children of the same mother born in the same calendar year) will both be two years old on the day of the Green and White Game and Maci will turn three on the next day. Raising our girls has become my most important commitment in my life. When time permits, I like to hunt, fish, golf in scrambles, ride the Harley, attend music concerts, and I enjoy investing in real estate."
What was the fondest memory of your playing career?
"The transition from strangers, to acquaintances, to teammates, and some even to life-long and best friends was a pretty wild ride. I have several fond memories. One fall the team reported to camp and all the defensive backs were sitting in a group and in walks Brad Wagner. There was something different with his look as he had bleached his hair white. Everyone was more or less dumbfounded and the quiet, intellectual one of the bunch, Mike Hennenberg, looks up and says, “what’s up Pony Boy?" Everyone erupted in laughter.(from the movie The Outsiders). The after-game celebrations were always fun and Coach Thomas had a Golden Rule. He’d say, “Guys, I don’t want any phone calls at three in the morning.” Then there was my parents’ house and front yard, which became the traditional Fourth of July meeting place in Detroit Lakes as I often brought half the team down for the festivities. The camaraderie that takes place during a football season and career is something unique to a sport in which you put yourself on the line every play."
What was your most memorable game?
"The Sioux-Bison game in 1995 is memorable as NFL Films was on site at practice, in the locker room, and on the sidelines to document one of the longest standing and greatest rivalries in college football. NFL films accurately portrayed the two programs as Roger Thomas being the calm and cool ‘Ice’ to the ‘Fire’ of Rocky Hagar. Everyone knows that fire turns to smoke when smothered by ice as the Sioux were victorious. Dr. Seaworth, from Detroit Lakes and a former Sioux player, ran up to me and Jason Zeigler and said something like, “that’s what you do, beat those guys every time you play them.
"Although the NFL Film game is memorable, for me, my most memorable game was the Sioux-Bison game of 1998 (my senior year), in the FargoDome. This is the game that Jimmy Kleinsasser caught a skinny post between a Bison cornerback and safety and literally put them in his dust on the way to the end zone. Another play that sticks out was a short hitch route that the Bison ran. I came up and made the tackle and it was a pretty routine play all around, except the ball popped loose and laid on the turf. Before I could even react to pick the ball up, my teammate Donovan Kaiser picked the ball up and ran 50 yards to the end zone for a scoop and score. Later in the game, the Bison had one last gasp and the receiver ran a corner route on fourth down, which I broke up along our sideline and Coach Thomas and I had a big high five and he said, “that a boy, Gundy!” The FargoDome quickly emptied out, except for the 1,500 or so Sioux fans that were allowed in a corner section of the dome. We took turns proudly hoisting up the Nickel Trophy for all to see - a picture that I still have on display."
What do you miss the most about being part of the UND Football Program?
"I miss having the mission in life of being the best player you can be in preparation for the next game. As a player, you want to show well and represent your family, friends, your home town, teammates, coaches, and yourself, so it was an incredible amount of motivation. Although everyone’s playing days come to an end, players will always be an Alum of the program and I encourage those that have not reached out and participated in Alumni functions to strongly consider doing so."
What is one thing you would share about your experience at UND with the current team?
A word comes to mind and for me it’s a message of opportunity. My chance to be part of the program set the foundation for my career, family life, and support group. Being part of the football team helped me manage time, set priorities, and envision a future. The football program helped with my grades as I was motivated to stay eligible and get my degree, which I did in Financial Management. Realizing that I wasn’t interested in going to class or a conventional career I pursued finance as a means to know and understand money, and that’s been instrumental in working for myself in real estate. And last, my wife and I were introduced years after my playing days by a former teammate and life-long friend. So the opportunity at hand for the current players may just be ‘bigger’ than what they realize.
What are you looking forward to the most about being back for the Spring Game?
"I am looking forward to being on the sideline. Sure football is fun to watch on TV and in the seats, but being on the field with a dozen or so players running your way to crush each other is really cool. The game just has a different feel to it from the sideline. The chatter of the offensive cadence and audibles and defensive checks is also something I am looking forward to being back around. And last, the emotion and intensity in the players’ faces will surely bring back some memories."