Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Profile - Ereka Howard

Interviewing Ereka wore me out.  She is so full of energy, animated, expressive, excited.

We’d been planning to profile her but the season ended. I emailed:  “The season is over, you’ll never come to Round Rock again and I’ll never go to San Marcos and we’ll never meet again and I’ll never get to make you famous by being included as a profiled player in my blog. Sorry.”  

She immediately replied:  “That's a NEGATIVE!!! Tell me when and where I need to be Dennis! Never say NEVER!!!!!”
Ereka Shoneta Howard - energetic and animated as always.
We met at McDonald's by the Outlaws Pflugerville practice field. In the interview I couldn’t keep up.  She talked excitedly, rapid fire.  Sentences came out as one word, like “Ohmygoodnessyes.”

She caught lots of passes
in practice.
She wanted to be positive, answering “yes” before hearing the question.  I asked if she caught any passes this season.  “Ohmygoodnessyes” she replied.  Then she couldn’t think of any receptions. She caught hundreds in practice but none in games.  It wasn’t a great season for the passing game. 

I asked if she made any tackles. “Ohmygoodnessyes.”  She describes a memorable tackle.  A “Mustang girl with ball, some of our girls trying to tackle her, “I hit her in middle, knocked the whole pile down.” 

Here's photographic evidence of the memorable
tackle Ereka told me about.  Photo is blurry
because lighting wasn't good but that's Ereka
on top.

Making a solo tackle. 
Photo by MaryLou Spence

This was Ereka’s rookie season.  She captured my attention and affection early, during practice, because of her wonderful facial expressions, reflecting total concentration, all-out effort.
Before I met Ereka I loved her facial expressions.

She is a positive person, a cheerleader.  Well, not exactly a cheerleader.  She says “I was Mascot at Texas State University.  I wore the Bobcat costume.”  She tells about crowd-surfing at football games.  After every score she, dressed as the mascot, went to the bottom of the stands where fans hoisted her over their heads and passed her hand-over-hand all the way to the top.  She was a great mascot because of her creativity and exuberant personality.  And she didn't weigh a whole lot.

That's our Ereka inside that mascot costume, getting
handed up the stands by adoring fans.

When she wasn’t being a mascot she was coaching other high school mascots in Central Texas. She participated when Texas State hosted an NCAA United Cheerleaders Association camp at San Marcos. She has worked with cheerleaders and NCAA mascots from “UT, OU, Baylor, all over.”

Ereka Grew up in Midland, Texas, home of “Friday Night Lights,” Oil Rigs, Tumble Weeds. And childhood home of President George W. Bush.  She has a brother named Donet’a who is four years older. She tells about conversing with him and her cousin Jay Walton about her decision to play football: “Out of humor and concern for my safety they said ‘why don’t you participate in ballet, fencing, heck try GOLF…?’   Then they said  have fun, “we know “how tough and smart you are and we wish you the absolute best as always.” 

She always enjoyed sports.  Basketball is her favorite next to football.  She played basketball in high school.  She’s not very tall, 5’ 3”, but she’s quick. She played softball and track (relays, triple jump, 100 meter, long jump, shot-put, discus, long distance run).

Growing up she played neighborhood football with the boys. I remember the first time getting tackled  -  got wind knocked out of me.” But she picked herself up, dusted herself off,  and went back into the game. At Texas State University she played on the Blazers woman intramural flag football team, winners of the 2012 Texas State championship.

Asked why football, she replies “I love challenges.”  Football is out of ordinary.  Society doesn’t approve.  It gives them something to talk about. 

Ereka running the ball.
 Of her family Ereka says “I have the best family and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!” Her love of family is magnified by the fact she was two years old when they adopted her.  They loved their adopted daughter just as much, maybe more, than if she had been born to them.  Her mother is an “inspiration a super woman.” Now retired she is active in community service and is a spokesperson for our education systems internationally and locally.

Mom wasn’t sure about Ereka’s playing football because she worried about her daughter’s safety.  But she always supported and encouraged Ereka in everything.  She believes in her daughter, believes in her determination and ability to accomplish whatever she sets out to do.

Dad loves her playing football.  She is “daddy’s girl” and he says she is tougher than many boys.  Before her first game he gave her a pep-talk:  Keep your eyes on the prize, catch every pass, don’t look back.  He has never been a football coach, he works in the Midland Independent School District, but he knows about the game. And he knows Ereka.

 Ereka graduated from Midland Lee High School and then Texas State University, finishing in December, 2011 with a major in Exercise Sports Science-All Level Physical Education.  She is Training to be health and wellness coach. 

Ereka with the Austin Community College
mascot "Riverbat" during a community outreach
event helping kids gain experience about
college.  Ereka's has a passion for kids.
She has a passion for kids.  In March of 2012 she was sworn in as an advocate in CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children) of Central Texas.  She has worked with “at risk” youth who need a little extra help.  She worked with ACC in programs to benefit youngsters. She also worked in a residential treatment facility for adolescent youth.  I asked if residential service with troubled kids put her in physical danger.  “Sometimes little altercations but I’m a de-escalator and a good listener so I hardly ever had issues.” 

She is a devout Christian, active in a Pentecostal church where she attends every Sunday and Wednesday and sings in the choir.  One Sunday after church she took out her football and threw passes to some of the church youth.  She told them about playing for the Outlaws.  They replied, “Sister Ereka, You play tackle football? Wow!

I asked what she wants me to know about her. She then said, “I’m very positive, energetic, outgoing, determined.” 

And about the Outlaws she says “All of these women have awesome personalities that drive them to do the same thing I want to do – play football, play football, play football,  Nothing can stop them.” 

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