Rock Gullickson knew he needed to look for a new job.
He didn’t know he’d be fulfilling a boyhood dream when he found it.
The Green Bay Packers have named the Moorhead native and life-long Packers fan to be the team’s new strength and conditioning coach.
Gullickson, who graduated from Moorhead High School and Moorhead State University, spent the past six years in the same position with the New Orleans Saints.
But, a call from Green Bay’s new head coach, Mike McCarthy, and a visit to the team’s facilities was all Gullickson needed to make his decision.
“As I was walking through the hall of their facility, I saw all my boyhood heroes on the walls,” said the 50-year-old Gullickson. “I broke down. I was so emotional.”
Gullickson said McCarthy was instrumental in tapping him to replace Barry Rubin as the team’s strength coach.
McCarthy was the Saints’ offensive coordinator from 2000-2004 and coached with Gullickson for five years before taking the offensive coordinator position with the San Francisco 49ers prior to this season.
Gullickson said he and McCarthy developed a strong work relationship in their time with the Saints.
“He’s the best person for this job, and I consider this position as important as any on my staff,” McCarthy said in a Packers press release.
“I’ve seen first hand what he can do with professional athletes. Our players will be impressed.”
Gullickson said he plans to implement a new conditioning program in an attempt to avoid another season filled with injuries.
The Packers placed several starters – Javon Walker, Ahman Green, Bubba Franks and Robert Ferguson – on the injuredreserved list this season.
“They had a number of injuries very early in the season that got them down,” Gullickson said. “One of the things we’re trying to improve upon is the offseason program. A lot of those injuries are fatigue related.”
Although Gullickson was an undersized offensive guard (6-foot, 240 pounds his senior season) when he played for Moorhead State, he made up for his size with strength and work ethic.
“He was one of our integral parts of our team,” said former Moorhead State offensive line coach Ron Masanz. “He was a pretty gung-ho kid.”
As a senior in 1977, Gullickson earned Associated Press Little All-America first-team honors. The Little All-America team is comprised of the best players from NCAA Division II, Division III and NAIA.
Gullickson went to New Orleans after stops at the University of Texas and the University of Louisville.
Things were going well for Gullickson in New Orleans until this season.
When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in late August, it forced the Saints to relocate to San Antonio.
“We had to put up a temporary weight room in a tent,” Gullickson said.
The tent, in a parking lot adjacent to the high school baseball field where the Saints practiced, was far from ideal for a professional football team.
The team’s workout troubles were complicated by an often changing schedule.
“These guys would thrive off knowing the schedule, knowing what to expect,” Gullickson said. “That threw a wrench into everything.”
Despite the Saints’ hopes that they’ll be able to play their home games in the Superdome next season, Gullickson was guarded as to whether he wanted to return, even though they offered him a two-year contract extension.
“There’s a lot of sadness in the city,” said Gullickson, as he and his wife, Terry, packed up their home in Destrahan, La., a suburb southwest of the New Orleans metro area. “There’s a lot of work being done. You can’t comprehend what work is being done.”
The house escaped extensive harm from Hurricane Katrina, suffering only easily repairable wind damage and no water damage. On Friday, the Gullickson’s received an offer on the house.
“There’s a lot of people who are looking for homes,” Gullickson said. “A lot of people are just coming back to the city.”
Gullickson believes he’s found his new home in Green Bay.
“It’s taken a while to sink in,” Gullickson said. “It still doesn’t seem real. They (the Packers) assured me it is.”