Words by Pat McStay
Virginia Beach has already produced talented Futbolr’s: Corey Ashe, Angela Hucles, Wade Barrett, Evan Newton, and Steve Jolly to name a few. Eric Bird might be well on his way into this category. He has been a winner at every level of soccer so far in his career and plans on joining UVA’s rich history of accolades by the time he graduates. Just 2 seasons ago, UVA won a national championship and has been trying to reach the top since then. They were knocked out in the first round this year by Delaware and are looking forward to big things in 2012.
Futbolr recently sat down with Eric.
Futbolr: Growing up playing for Beach FC, Cox HS, and also the Region I ODP team, who helped shape you into the player you are today?
Eric: So far I have been extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to participate with many different teams, coaches, and players. Playing for Beach, Cox High School, Virginia State Team, and Region I have all had great effects on me as both a player and a person as well. Jon Hall and Gerry Sharpe were the two who really got me interested in the sport and sparked the idea in my mind that I could actually go places with it if I applied myself. Steve Danbusky and Kevin Denson were also great coaches from Beach who taught me a lot to further develop my game. They also played the significant roles in getting me noticed by the colleges that I was interested in. Scott Meade, from Cox, was a great coach too. He puts 100% into everything he does at the school and truly believes that his team can accomplish anything (2 state titles his first two years as head coach). In ODP, I'll never forget my coaches like Gordon Miller, Grant Smith, Brian Hinkle, George O'Neil and Keith Tabatznik. And of course all of my peers who I completed with and against throughout my youth career.
Futbolr: How did you get started in soccer?
Eric: I started playing soccer when I was about 6 or 7. My best friend and next door neighbor Riley Smith (goalie at Cox High School) got me into the sport.
Futbolr: Who was your biggest influence on the field?
Eric: I couldn't tell you who influenced me most on the field because everybody has in their own way. However, Jon Hall was the man who really took me under his wing and helped me develop confidence in my football.
Futbolr: Any good movies on your IPHONE/IPOD?
Eric: Don't really have any movies on my phone or ipod, but my favorite movies of all-time are Braveheart, 300, and Grandma's Boy.
Futbolr: Who did you look up to growing up?
Eric: As a player, I looked up to Steve Gerrard. He's my favorite player of all-time. I try to model my game after his. Yet, I also looked up to my parents. They are the best people I've ever met. I thank god every single day of my life for blessing me with such an amazing support system. I looked up to them (and still do) because I knew that they would be there for me no matter what whenever I needed them.
Futbolr: What was your greatest memory growing up as a player in Virginia Beach?
Eric: My greatest memory growing up in Virginia Beach as a player had to be practicing on rainy days with Coach Hall and the Beach FC Fire (Neil Harrison, Chris Albiston, Hunter Byrnes, Paul Braunstein, Zac Eckert, Riley Smith, Danny Scholz). I'll also never forget playing sand soccer every year when we were little at NASSC at the Oceanfront. I don't think we ever lost a game.
Futbolr: Cox HS has had a long history of success in the high school soccer scene. Explain your experience there.
Eric: Playing at Cox was a real honor, I look at the banners in the gym with all of the All-Americans and All-State Falcons and it tickles me that I would even be considered in the mix with the rest of them. Cox has a history of greatness and I'm just glad that I was able to be a part of its unbelievable traditions.
Futbolr: What made you choose UVA? How has that worked out so far?
Eric: I chose to attend the University of Virginia because I thought it would give me the best opportunity to pursue my dreams in both academics and athletics. Unfortunately, I suffered a season-ending injury about 10 games into the season this year so my college career got off to a shaky start. However, the support system here is phenomenal and I am 100% confident that I will make a full recovery and slide back into my starting spot before next season. Oh and I absolutely love the school here! It has the right balance of everything you need in order to succeed in my opinion.
Futbolr: It looked like you started off very well at UVA starting 8 out of 9, recording a goal and 2 assists before suffering a knee injury. How did it happen? How far into rehab are you now?
Eric: My injury happened against the University of North Carolina. It was unfortunate, but it's part of the game. I don't like to think about what happened because to be honest I don't really remember. I do know that I will get past this injury by staying positive and doing my rehab. I'm not worried about it at all. I'm two months into the process and according to my doctor I'm well ahead of schedule. But for the record: I completely tore my ACL and I had a grade 3 MCL tear.
Futbolr: What are you looking to accomplish while you are at UVA?
Eric: While at UVA I am looking to accomplish many things. National Titles, ACC Championships I want it win it all. It's one of the main reasons I attended such a high profile university like UVA.
Futbolr: Any plans to play after?
Eric: As for what happens after, we'll just have to wait and see! I'd love to continue my career as a professional soccer player wherever it may take me!
Futbolr: On a long road trip, what do you have playing in your IPOD? What about pre-game?
Eric: On the long bus rides I normally like to relax and tap a nap, maybe listen to my favorite artist Jack Johnson. Before the games I'm all business. We have speakers blaring in the locker room playing whatever song the team wants to hear.
Futbolr: Name 2 posters in your dorm room/apartment right now (let me guess-one of them is Bob Marley)?
Eric: Hahaha no actually, I do not have a Bob Marley poster. I have my Cox Letter hanging up with a few pins and I also have a poster with a quote by Steve Jobs. It reads "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose."
Futbolr: Any advice to the young players reading this?
Eric: I would stress to all young players reading this to follow your dreams, not only in soccer but also in life. Don't let anybody tell you that you can't do something because anything is possible if you approach it with the right mentality.