Edward "Bud" Erickson spent the first 17 years of his life in Chautauqua County, having been born in Dunkirk on March 12, 1923. He was involved in five sports during his years at Dunkirk High School, including football, basketball, track, volleyball and tennis, graduating in 1940.
He attended Duke University and played freshman football in 1941 and also attended Syracuse University before entering the Air Force during World War II. After the war, he attended Michigan State University and was the captain of the baseball team in 1948. He also received a recruitment letter from the Boston Braves, but did not pursue a professional baseball career. He stayed on at Michigan State after graduation for four years and became the school's assistant sports information director, a position he served in from 1948 to 1952.