The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Brandon Erickson:Wide out works through broken bones, tough losses

Tae Andrews | Thursday, November 15, 2007

Brandon Erickson knows hospitals. Maybe that’s why he wants to work in one someday.

The walk-on wide receiver and pre-professional major from Marlboro, N.J., suffered a bad ankle break in practice after a collision with running back Travis Thomas following last year’s Georgia Tech game.

“Travis hit me on a crossing route, spun me the other way,” Erickson said.

As soon as Erickson suffered the break, team trainers rushed him to the hospital, and he underwent surgery. As the trainers attended to him, Erickson recalls literally telling them to turn his mangled leg back around. “Clearly, that was impossible,” he said, “but I didn’t want to undergo surgery at all.”

Given that Erickson didn’t have time to even call his parents and let them know what had happened, fellow New Jersey native and coach Charlie Weis called Erickson’s mother and left her a message saying that Brandon was OK but had been injured in practice.

When Erickson’s mother called back around midnight, Weis told her that Brandon had suffered one of the worst, if not the worst, injury he had ever seen.

“My mom freaked,” Erickson said. “Even though Weis told her I was OK, and her and my dad drove up here to see me the next day.”

Not one to lay around idle, Erickson left the hospital the morning after his surgery and went to class. Irritated that Erickson had left the hospital so soon, Weis called him and ordered him to go to the infirmary for the weekend. The ankle continues to bother Erickson today.

“It hurt a lot, still hurts, actually,” Erickson said. “I got two screws and a plate in there.”

Despite the hard knocks, broken bones and new hardware, there’s no keeping him off the team. After playing football in high school, Erickson realized during his freshman year that he couldn’t be happy watching from the stands.

“I just kind of missed the game a lot,” he said. “I tried to walk on and Weis came in at the same time with a new walk-on class, you know, he was doing everything new, so he took a couple of us. … It worked out well for me.”

Erickson said the real Weis is very different from the brash, outspoken image many people have of him.

“He’s quiet for the most part,” Erickson said. “He yells a little bit, but not too much. He doesn’t make rash judgments. He kind of holds back, takes it all in, then he’ll watch the film and give you his critique at practice the next day.”

Over the past three years, Erickson has seen Weis’ exciting reinvigoration of the Notre Dame football program from the inside. One part of that means learning a lot from coaches who demand a lot.

“They’ll get on you about stupid stuff sometimes,” Erickson said. “If there’s really nothing to yell at you for, they always find something to yell at you for. Obviously, you never can be perfect, so they make sure you know that.”

Having coaches with such a perfectionist work ethic has convinced Erickson that the future of Notre Dame football remains bright, despite the team’s abysmal record this season.

“It’s gonna be a good program,” he said. “They’re good coaches. They know what they’re doing.”

Another part of playing wide receiver during the recent Irish resurgence meant being on the receiving end of former quarterback Brady Quinn’s bullet-like passes.

“You know, honestly, the first time I came in from high school I almost broke my fingers,” Erickson said. “He throws so fast. I mean, he’s accurate, and he can put it wherever. Wherever you want him to, he can put it, but if you’re not ready for it, it will definitely hurt you.”

Having made a full recovery from the ankle injury, Erickson continues to face risks on the field and in practice, but he says he does it for the friends he’s made during his time on the team.

“It’s just cool to go out there with all the seniors every day, all the guys I’ve been here with for a couple years, and just go out and have a good time,” he said. “Because without them, it wouldn’t be fun. It wouldn’t be worth it.”

Erickson counts fellow seniors and walk-ons Nick Possley, Mike Talerico and Justin Gillett among his best friends on the team, plus quarterback Darrin Bragg.

Despite all the losing in one of Notre Dame’s worst seasons in history, Erickson said he’s still having a good time because of the bonds he has with those friends.

“You’re still having fun, you’re still playing with the same guys, having a good time,” he said. “It’s kind of something…you stick to it. You don’t want to quit at anything you do, ever, so stick to it.”