Professional Football Inglewood High-School, LA County ‘90 San Diego State ‘95 Washington Redskins ’95- ‘96 Philadelphia ‘97 Saskatchewan ’97-‘98 Raiders ‘99 Calgary ’99- 2000
I wanted to share a story of about a coach I played for during my High-School days and what he told me that has motivated me to this day and on. After my Junior of playing football, I was finished playing for my school. We were a terrible team and our record showed just that (0-30)! I was tired of losing and didn’t want to lose anymore and so I quit and never showed up at practice. A few days had gone by and there’s a knock on my door. Coach Orville Echols shows up and says, “we missed you at practice.” I basically told him that I quit and was tired of losing. He said, “you don’t get to quit!” He goes on and tells me that when people have as much talent as you did that we don’t get to quit until someone makes that choice for us. This would be very impactful to me later in life, though at age 17, I didn’t exactly know what he was talking about.
I then continued playing football for my Senior season and was the only player from my High-School to get a full ride to play at San Diego State University. I played as a true Freshman and as I continued playing in college, I began to understand little by little what it meant by not quitting. Just like being in a battle in a game and competing against someone who might be better than you or just is having a better game than you, you still needed to find a way to win. If you quit, you don’t see the ending. You have the opportunity to write the narrative of the story. My High-School coach gave me great advice and it was something I continued at the next level.
After SDSU, I didn’t get drafted and was very upset. I got a few calls after the draft to join teams as a free agent but felt i should have been drafted I but was reminded by Coach Echols to never quit. At this point I realized that the fact that I was being invited to camp was something special and I should appreciate this opportunity than be angry because of it. I did end up attending camp with the Washington Redskins and made the team.
Let me fast forward a bit as I played for multiple teams in the NFL and CFL but in this story around 1999/2000 while playing for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL, something took place that would affect my career and life forever. I was playing against Edmonton Eskimos and their QB, Nealon Greene was running down the sideline and as I got close went in for the hit only to have him slide and from the other side, Linebacker Alondra Johnson and I collide like two rams hitting each other. After this hit, I wasn’t able to feel myself from my neck down and this was scary. I slowly was able to move my arms and much later was able to move my legs. I learned later that I had a Spinal Concussion in which your body gets temporary paralysis. I had the tingling and the numbness but lucky for me, it wasn’t as severe as it could’ve been. This was during the middle of the season and by the end, I was still trying to come back though the coaches and Doctor’s told me no after the MRI results showed problems. It still didn’t hit me yet that I was finished with football. I got back to LA and had a great mindset. I told myself I can still do this football thing and reached out to a coach (James Fuller) I had met while in Philadelphia who worked for an arena team. He wanted me and I went to play for him in Oklahoma. I was in training camp and at some point, they had asked for my medical records and were shocked to discover what happened to me the year previously. They called me in for a meeting and looked at me and said there is no Doctor in the world who would clear me to play and continued by saying, “you need to find something else to do in life.” Hearing the Doctor tell me that I was done is when it hit me finally. But like Coach Echols had told me how I don’t get to quit. They forced me to quit but life wasn’t over. I’ve always been a fighter, a hustler and worked hard. Though I did have a little depression after football was over, I got through it and continued my fight in the workplace. I’m a fighter of life now. Getting injured in football taught me to never give up regardless of my circumstances and to this day, I’ve committed myself to writing the narrative of my story and that starts by never quitting.
My parents and family have always shared life lessons with me, but I always thought they didn’t understand because what they went through was so long ago... not true at all. If I could go back and tell 17 year old Eric something, it would be to listen to the people in my circle. They know what their talking about. When you have experienced people around you are telling you what you should and shouldn’t do, it’s almost as if they’re giving you a blueprint for your future. It’s the same scenario and different date. Just like the saying goes, times may have changed but the music is still the same! That’s my advice to younger Eric or to anyone else who might be in similar shoes like myself.
Eric, thanks for sharing your story which I know will be impactful in the lives of current playing athletes as well as others who want to quit in life! Your HS coach was a great man in that he gave you no choice other than to commit yourself to playing football even if your team had never won through 3 years of High-School. Not quitting is hard enough, let alone when you haven't won a game. My memory in playing with you is that you were a really good player, never afraid of a challenge and did most of your talking through your play. I'm sure I was experiencing a taste of what your Coach Echols had taught you a long time before we met as your teammate. Thanks for sharing your story as well as advice for others. I know it will be encouraging to all people in life. Gary Rogers