ATHENS, Ga. — Adam Erickson sent a text message to his mother after word came from Georgia following the Bulldogs’ football walk-on tryouts three years ago.
“I M A DAWG.”
Kathy Erickson, who teaches English to speakers of other languages at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Ga., said she dropped her phone and ran around her classroom with excitement.
The story for the local product has taken another turn as Georgia wraps up on campus preparations today for the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl against Nebraska
Erickson has solidified his hold on Georgia’s starting punting job, coach Mark Richt said this week after Erickson got the nod over Collin Barber the final two regular-season games.
“Any type of contribution is awesome,” Erickson said. “I’ve always believed in myself, but getting a chance to start a couple of games and get some punts up there, it feels great. You never know how long it lasts, that’s for anybody at any position. That’s the approach you have to take it as. You have to come in and bring your ‘A game’ every day to sustain the job as long as you can.”
Kathy Erickson knows all about competing. She wears championship rings from her days as a striker on North Carolina soccer teams that won four consecutive NCAA titles from 1981-84.
Adam played soccer “from the get go” with older brother J.B. They also played baseball growing up and Adam followed Jay on the Clarke Central football team as a kicker and punter. Younger brother Kevin also played soccer.
Adam Erickson was hoping to play college soccer, but he broke a foot in high school, which may have cut down on his scholarship opportunities.
So he came to Georgia, which does not have a men’s team, content on playing club soccer. His father, Scott, a financial adviser, convinced him to tryout for the Bulldogs.
“Ever since then, I’ve been brought in just to push people and compete,” Erickson said.
Kathy Erickson said she’s “so grateful” that punter Drew Butler and kicker Blair Walsh mentored Erickson while they were at Georgia.
“I can tell him all day about Division I athletics, but to live it and learn it and go through it with those guys was great,” she said.
The junior began this season battling with Patrick Beless to be the replacement for Marshall Morgan at kicker while he served a suspension. Beless got the nod then, but Erickson is ending the season as Georgia’s punter.
Barber was replaced after averaging 38.2 yards per punt against Auburn.
“They’ve called my number the past couple of games and I’ve just tried to come in and do a good job and make it happen,” said Erickson, already Georgia’s holder on field goals and extra points the past two seasons.
Erickson could have the inside track to begin next season holding onto the punting job. Richt said Erickson has won the job.
“They’re still competing for it kind of on a weekly basis, but he just outright won the job,” Richt said. “I’m proud of him. He’s got another year of eligibility. Collin is going to have his work cut out for him to win the job back, because Adam is punting really well right now.”
Erickson is averaging 41.8 yards on nine punts this season.
Barber, like kicker Marshall Morgan, signed with Georgia on scholarship.
“You would think if they invested money in someone that they would like to have him playing,” Erickson said. “That’s a logical thing to say. I don’t know though. It’s one of those things, as a player, I don’t think about as much. I do the best I can — that’s focusing on my punts and encouraging guys around me.”
Erickson said neither he nor Barber have given up many punt return yards this season (43 total), which he credits to the work of assistant John Lilly and the coverage unit.
“We’ve had a few slip ups as far as blocked punts, but outside of that we’ve done a good job as a whole unit,” said Erickson, who wasn’t involved in any of the punt blocks or miscues off punt snaps. “You can always hit the ball better, but I’ve been pretty pleased with the results of most of the punts.”
Erickson should have more chance to hit the ball better in the bowl game.
“I’ve always loved this team,” Erickson said. “Getting to contribute any way, whether it’s holding, punting or kicking, is great.”