It didn't matter how serious Jack Cribbin was, if at all. Caitlin Erickson found the idea of playing in a women's professional football league intriguing.
Nearly a decade later, she still loves the thought.
Erickson was a senior on the Lindenwood University women's lacrosse team in 2010 when Cribbin, the Lions' veteran head coach, showed up to practice with a flyer in his hand. It invited anyone to tryouts the St. Louis Slam, a team in the Women's Football Alliance, planned to hold on the St. Charles, Mo., campus.
"He said, ‘Here you go, C, this is a great fit for you,'" said Erickson, a goalkeeper for Cribbin then and the head coach of Culver-Stockton College's fledging women's lacrosse program now. "I think he was joking around and didn't realize I'd go for it.
"I looked at it like,
‘Oh, my gosh, this is so cool. I didn't know this existed.' A week later, the tryouts were on campus and I loved it."
She has ever since.
Erickson, an All-American center, recently completed her ninth season playing football, helping the Slam win the WFA Tier 2 national championship with a 34-0 victory over the Detroit Dark Angels in Golden, Colo. It is the Slam's third title in the past four seasons and fourth overall in 16 years of existence.
St. Louis went 11-0, and the dominant effort could lead to a boost to Tier I next season.
"Shutting the other team out in the championship, they might be a little angry," Erickson said with a smile.
That kind of competitiveness and willingness to play with a chip on the shoulder is what has set the Slam apart. It's the kind of determination Erickson plans to bring to the Wildcats, too.
C-SC hired her a little more than a year ago to launch its lacrosse program. The Wildcats expect to have a roster of 16 or more players when they play their first game next spring, and lessons learned playing football have shaped how Erickson recruits.
"As a coach, I look at how I can bring all of these girls from different backgrounds and different cultures together and get them to rally around a common goal," Erickson said. "I'm at an advantage because I get to see the best of both worlds at the same time right now as a player and a coach.
"I'm constantly analyzing. Did what I just say what I don't want my players to say back to me? Is that how I don't want my players to act in practice? I am constantly analyzing people's behaviors, too. I'm looking at my teammates and what are some good qualities I wish I could recruit from girls."
The professional football experience is going to shape how she coaches, too.
The Slam have followed a blueprint of building from the ground up and it works.
"Everybody does it for different reasons," Erickson said of the players on the Slam roster. "Once they get to the team, they do it because they love the team and the level of competition. We're just good, and we have a really good coaching staff that teaches us from day one the fundamentals.
"If you don't know anything about football, they're going to teach you everything before they ever put you in pads."
Erickson won't be recruiting novices to play at C-SC, but the fundamental approach is similar and the end result can be a ring ceremony.
She and the Slam have another one coming.
"I'm still riding the high, waiting for the third ring and trying to figure out which finger to put it on," Erickson said. "This year, being a champion means the world to me."