Erickson alone at head of the classErickson, this year’s Superior Telegram Football Player of the Year, was a punishing linebacker and team captain for the Spartans this year. He’d prepared for the role since he was a boy, when he recruited his older brother, Zach, to help him.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
In the halls of Superior High School, Ben Erickson can often be found scribbling away at a calculus problem or reading the latest coursework for one of his Advanced Placement classes.
He’s an affable young man who’s quick to offer a friendly smile.
But when classes end, a different side of Erickson emerges — the side the doles out vicious hits on the football field.
“It’s a little bit different on the field. There are times when you should be angry and aggressive, and there are times when you should be more relaxed,” Erickson said. “I’m a totally different person on the field, I would say.”
Erickson, this year’s Superior Telegram Football Player of the Year, was a punishing linebacker and team captain for the Spartans this year. He’d prepared for the role since he was a boy, when he recruited his older brother, Zach, to help him.
“I would put on pads and then I would have him beat me up and tackle me with his buddies,” Erickson said. “My brother definitely taught me the work ethic I have and how to be a captain. He taught me what was right and what captains have to do, so I thank him for that.”
Erickson’s older brother also taught him the basics of weightlifting.
For the past four years Erickson has set up a second home in the SHS weight room. Every morning he gets in his lifts and sprints as part of the Bigger, Faster, Stronger program. Day by day he sets goals, and as soon as he reaches them he sets new ones.
In the weight room, Erickson said, complacency is the opponent.
“There’s a plateau … just saying, ‘I think this is a good weight to be at,’” Erickson said. “I kept on breaking barriers and kept on pushing myself and upping my max weight.”
Currently Erickson sits at 405 pounds for the parallel squat and 235 pounds for the bench press.
Both numbers are impressive, but Erickson isn’t after any records — he’d have to topple Niko Bogojevic’s lofty marks for that. The only motive behind Erickson’s weight training is the edge it gives him on the football field.
“Ben never misses a workout in the weight room,” said Bob DeMeyer, head coach of the Spartans. “He works on his speed and agility, eats and sleeps right, everything he can do to get better.”
Erickson’s exacting regimen helped him put up big numbers for the Spartans this year. He ranked among the state’s leading linebackers with 133 total tackles, averaging almost 15 per game. At season’s end Erickson had 95 solo tackles, 38 assists and 5.5 sacks.
“He also played slot for us on offense as a blocker, ball carrier and receiver; he did whatever he could to help his team,” DeMeyer said. “His leadership was immeasurable — on and off the field.”
Erickson earned Big Rivers Conference All-Conference first team recognition as a linebacker and drew notice statewide as one of 25 semifinalists for the John Anderson Award, given to the state’s top senior linebacker.
“I believe he was the best linebacker in the state,” DeMeyer said. “He has such a nose for the ball and he finishes every play physically. He has another gear when he’s pursuing the ball carrier, and he is fundamentally very sound taking on blockers and making the tackle.”
Academically, Erickson also pushes himself. He is among the top 10 percent of the senior class in GPA and is working to earn college credits through Advanced Placement and College in the Schools courses.
“He’s a remarkable student, earning a 3.9 GPA with many AP classes, and (he) has always found the time to volunteer in our youth program,” DeMeyer said. “He’s an all-around tremendous young man.”
DeMeyer added that Erickson’s hard work will provide the senior with the opportunity to play football collegiately if he chooses.
Erickson says college football may be an option, but his priority right now is choosing a college that suits him academically. Political science and biology are among the fields he is considering.
“I have multiple options in case sports doesn’t work out,” Erickson said. “I’m grateful I focused on my studies.”
Erickson is also grateful for the lessons he has learned on the football field.
The Spartans finished the season 0-9 when Erickson was a sophomore, and many players left the team that year in frustration.
Superior improved to 3-6 the next year but still fell short of qualifying for the playoffs.
This year, the Spartans believed they were out of contention, but with a win in their final game of the regular season they eked into the playoffs with a 4-4 record. It was Superior’s first playoff berth since 2008.
“I just thought that was a great way to top off my senior year,” Erickson said. “The quote I like best is: Football doesn’t make character, it reveals it. During our sophomore season . . . guys kind of quit. It shows your true character. For me to stick it out and know that there’s more than just wins and losses going on here, that was the true meaning I got from it.
“That can really translate to other aspects of life. If school isn’t going right, if my job isn’t going right, you can’t just quit. You have to stick it through.”