A path can lead in many different directions and sometimes it’s the correct one while other times it just doesn’t work out as well.
Former Burroughs High standout football player, Erick Hernandez, has taken a circuitous route to get to where he is today.
A wide receiver with glue-like hands, a precise pattern runner with deceptive foot speed who caught 80 career passes for over 1,200 yards and accounted for 24 overall touchdowns, Hernandez began his college career in 2016 in Loretto, Pennsylvania, where he played on scholarship for Saint Francis University.
After toiling until 2018 for the Red Flash, who are a member of the NCAA Division I AA Football Championship Subdivision, Hernandez transferred to Humboldt State University, where he played one season on scholarship. Coincidentally it was the last year that the school competed in football.
“I learned a ton in my college experience. I grew in every aspect,” said Hernandez, a three-year varsity starter for Burroughs who was named Offensive Most Valuable Player by the team as a senior in 2015 after hauling in 36 receptions for 532 yards with 13 scores and is now the wide receivers coach for the Indians.
“Some may not see my football career after high school as successful, and I don’t disagree,” he went on. “But everything I went through in college, as a player, has led me to who I am, and who I’m trying to be, as a coach.”
Hernandez, who was named All-Pacific League and All-Area twice and was selected the Hall of Fame All-Star Game West squad MVP, explained further: “I had to fall out of love with the game, to find my true love for it through a process of me falling out of love with the game, but with a new perspective through coaching,” he said. “I can easily say that I have nothing but love for football.”
Right now, with COVID-19 still wreaking havoc, getting ready for the upcoming football season has been put on hold.
“The virus has forced me to cancel all off-season workouts indefinitely,” he said. “I have been stuck at home since the order came out. Staying at home wasn’t so bad at first, but I am really hoping to get back out there with the [Burroughs] team for regularly scheduled summer football.”
Hernandez continued: “On the bright side, I have made some great connections with some of the best trainers and coaches in the country, mostly from the collegiate and NFL level,” he noted. “I think this chaotic time has brought a lot of coaches together and created some great opportunities to learn from each other that otherwise would have never existed. Years from now, I think I will look back on this time and see how pivotal it really was for me because in the midst of chaos, I found opportunity.”
Hernandez is grateful to former Burroughs coach Rand Holdren, who stepped down after his second season.
“Working at Burroughs has been great. Things are a lot different than when I was playing there,” he said. “Coach [Holdren] gave me my first opportunity as a coach and I was happy it was Burroughs,” he said. “Burroughs has a special place in my heart and always will. I have a lot of great memories there and this past year I made even more. It has definitely been an experience being the youngest guy in the office and only four years older than most of the kids, but I feel like I fit in.”
An excellent student in high school and college, playing football at the next level proved difficult at times.
“I can’t say I truly enjoyed my college experience,” said Hernandez, who helped lead the Indians to the CIF Southern Section playoffs twice, losing in the first round as a sophomore and the second round as a senior. “I am definitely grateful for it, but I don’t think I took full advantage of it.”
Does Hernandez have any regrets? “I think there were definitely points where I wish I had done things differently, but looking back now, I wouldn’t change anything,” he said. “I honestly believe everything I went through as a player has set me up to be a great coach. The successes and failures and everything in between has given me a great perspective as a person and as a coach.”
Hernandez acknowledged the difference between playing high school and college football.
“It’s much harder than high school, especially at that high of a level, so it is easy to get lost in the shuffle,” he said. “There are definitely more reasons, but at the end of the day, I put the blame on myself and take responsibility for my successes and failures alike.”
Though Hernandez was hoping to accomplish more at the college level, it’s not as though he and the team didn’t shine.
“It would have to be winning the [Northeast] conference title and getting a ring my freshman year of college,” Hernandez said of his career highlight. “That was the first time in school history that the football team won a Division I AA conference championship.”
Hernandez said some words of wisdom during his last year playing college football has been the most helpful.
“Some advice that I got from Humboldt State wide receivers coach, Josh Irvin, was “remember why you started” and that sticks out to me till this day,” he said. “I think a lot of us lose sight of why we start something in the first place and that’s why we fail sometimes.”
Hernandez then added: “And sometimes we start things for the wrong reasons, so looking back and remembering why we decided to start something in the first place gives us perspective and can either give us a sign to keep going or move on,” he said.
Though young, Hernandez is well on his way in his chosen field. “My short term goal is that I want to get into coaching as soon as I finish my Business Marketing degree at CSUN,” he said. “Long term, I think I could be happy as a position coach at the college level, but I believe I am capable of much more; so I do plan to reach my full potential and if it leads me to a coordinator or head coaching job, then I would fully embrace that.”