Companies

Iowa Hawkeyes, 1999- 2014
Univ. of Wisconsin 2018-

Teams

Collegiate Football
Vanderbilt Univ. '95

My Story

I was an all heart, no talent person playing linebacker weighing around 180 pounds in college and had to work my ass off to keep up and not get killed. In fact, nothing in my life has ever come easy and so I’ve always been a try hard person in sports, as a coach and business owner too! When you wake up each day, you want to be the best person you can in every aspect of your life; socially (how you deal with people or in relationships), from an education standpoint, an employment standpoint and even playing a sport. “What are you doing to get better in your job” is something I’d ask myself daily when owner of 3 restaurants. Whether it is personally or professionally I’m that guy who is never content and always trying to get better.
My story above is just the way I told you. That’s who I am every day. I’m not sure if it’s a fear of failure or not meeting someone’s expectations or not being good enough, but I try to do things better, with work, family or just privately in and of myself. That’s how I go about business. My biggest Check You Game moment is how I talk to my wife. I don’t always listen to her opinion. I have that inner drive thinking it’s my way even though she is an important part of my life. This leads into my Check Your Game moment. I was the owner of 3 restaurants with two partners. Though I didn’t know these partners well, there were some situations that took place that allowed my wife to see the story better than me. At one point in our business ownership, we had a total of four partners in the businesses. My other two partners decided we needed to get rid of the other partners. After we parted ways with the one partner, my wife said, “Eric, we need to make sure we look at these operating agreements or the partners could do the same thing with us (this was in reference to them getting rid of another previous owner).” I didn’t agree with what took place, but I ran the restaurants very well. I’m honest and thought to myself that the partners would never or could never do this to me. Nevertheless, after 4 months, even after having some of the best performing restaurants and retention rates in the system, there was a major problem and either the partners needed to go, or I needed to sell. I ended up selling my ownership back to the 2 partners but the eye-opening piece for myself was to listen to others, especially my wife. It’s something I need to do better. I’m a teacher and coach, but sometimes we don’t always listen to the student, or my wife in this case.

My Advice

I think the best piece of advice is to not be content in any area of your life whether it be socially, in your education or professionally. I’ve seen that people who become content, fall much faster than those who strive to be better. “The moment you think you made it is the moment you will fail” is what I used to tell people in the restaurant industry or when I was coaching.

Comments

Hey Eric, thank-you so much first of all for sharing a little bit of your story. I can remember you vividly in my head wearing our black practice jerseys and white pants. Normally, the pants would fit pretty snug on a player but the picture in my mind of you was that those pants were dangling on your legs and you needed to fill them out a bit! So yes, I get it that you were pretty light and needed to work really hard at not getting pummeled! I feel your pain because when I first got to Vandy, I too was on the lighter side. It's not easy entering the world at any level of Collegiate sports whether it be football, tennis, soccer, baseball or basketball! There is always an eye opening experience for those Freshman. You did work hard Eric and I can attest to that as well as never giving up as well! What is so important about your story though is that you took that same mentality on the football field and have been applying it in life! People wonder if sports teaches you life skills! Yes it does but then you have to apply them which you did. Okay, enough of the football talk and sports talk! This next part is equally important for others to hear. You now look back at your situation and realized how your wife who had been giving you a warning about your contract was right! It's so hard many times to listen to others around us. You had to live and learn the hard way in regards to not listening to others, but I'm thankful that you realized it now and are able to encourage others who might be dealing with a similar situation in all areas of life! You are a good guy Eric and as I look back after interviewing many of my ex teammates, I'm saddened that I didn't take the time to get to know you and others better, and that includes the non athletes! I guess we live and learn as we go forward. Thanks again for your time and sharing your story. Gary Rogers

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June Jakes says:

EJ,

I remember a young man who worked very hard and was very smart except for an incident with fire and a concrete lion. You learned from that by the injuries and worked your butt off as a GA. This opened the coaching door that you walked through and made one heck of a coach.