News Herald- Lake Grad Hits Jackpot, Paydirt
By: Mark Podolski, The News-Herald
Tim Erjavec remembers a talk he had with his
grandfather last year.
Gene Erjavec told his grandson to be more assertive. If there's something in life you want, go get it, he said.
That "something" was not settling for offers from Division II and III schools to play college football. Tim Erjavec wanted to play D-I football.
The route he took was a gamble. There were no guarantees. Heck, there wasn't even a football helmet to put on initially.
After graduating from Lake Catholic, Erjavec enrolled at Kent State in 2009, but he wasn't part of the football program. For the first time in a long time, there wasn't a practice to attend, a game plan to analyze, or film to watch.
"I pretty much worked out on my own," said Erjavec of his freshman year at Kent. "But I always thought about football. I knew I wanted to keep playing. When (the 2009 season) started, time went by slow, it seemed."
The itch to get back into the game became so great Erjavec he simply walked into Kent's football office one January afternoon and gave defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis a tape of himself from high school and informed the team he planned to walk on. He left the office, and an hour later Rekstis called.
"He said, ‘Why didn't you try out last fall?' " said Erjavec. "He said they wanted me as a linebacker."
That was the first step. Erjavec had his opportunity. Again, nothing was guaranteed. He was a walk-on with no football scholarship. Spring practice awaited.
Initially, Erjavec worked as a linebacker for the Golden Flashes. The position was natural for him, and he excelled there while at Lake Catholic. In high school, he was also a running back and tight end.
"(At Kent), they told me to focus on being a linebacker, but things changed," said Erjavec, a sophomore in class rank, but freshman in football rank. "I never knew I would become a tight end."
Lack of depth at tight end prompted the move, one Erjavec welcomed. If it meant finding the field, he was all for it. Currently, he's No. 2 on Kent's depth chart behind starter Justin Thompson, whom Erjavec says is one of his best friends on the team. The Golden Flashed employ two tight-end sets during games, so Erjavec's blocking skills are at a premium. His receiving skills are slowly becoming more apparent.
Last Saturday, he caught his first collegiate touchdown, a 24-yarder, in a 33-14 win over Ball State. For the season, he has five receptions for 57 yards.
"It felt great," said Erjavec of the TD. "My teammates have been great, and they helped me enjoy it. They welcomed me when I joined the team, but actually scoring a touchdown makes me feel like I'm here to stay."
Actually, what happened two weeks prior was the ultimate accomplishment. Coach Doug Martin pulled Erjavec aside and told him he would be awarded a full football scholarship, which for some is like winning the lottery, considering the rising costs of college tuition.
"That was special," Erjavec said. "That felt like I really accomplished something."
As Erjavec and Kent head to the stretch run of their season, today's game at home against MAC-East first-place Temple (7-2, 4-1) doesn't get any bigger. The Golden Flashes are 5-4 overall and 3-2 in the MAC-East. It's crowded at the top as Ohio (7-3, 5-1) and Miami (Ohio) (5-4, 4-1) are vying for the East crown.
One thing is for sure: Today's Temple-Kent winner will have a say in which team makes it to Detroit for the MAC championship game.
"This will be one of the biggest games I've ever played in," said Erjavec.