Tag Archives: Cal State University Northridge

Rick’s Sports Corner: Erick Hernandez, Burroughs Football Player, Turned Coach

Rick Assad

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.

Erick Hernandez (pictured in the middle) was a star wide receiver for the Indians and returned as a coach. (Photo courtesy Erick Hernandez)

“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.”

Wide receivers coach, Erick Hernandez, leads Burroughs onto the field. (Photo courtesy Erick Hernandez)

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.”

Kyle Nicol Prepares For Next Step At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

By Rick Assad
 
 

 

It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that baseball’s toughest position is being behind home plate.

A catcher’s job requires catlike quickness to step from the plate and throw the ball to second base on a steal attempt, blocking balls that are in the dirt, handling balls that are tipped off the bat, physical strength because you are squatting for nine innings, seeing the game as it develops and perhaps most important of all, the ability to call for the correct pitches and location.

The next most difficult position to master is shortstop, which also requires being quick-footed and quick-handed with a cannon-like throwing arm when the ball is hit deep into the hole and then being able to turn the double play, and ready for anything and everything that can possibly happen on a baseball field.

Not far behind those two is being relief pitcher, which asks a hurler to enter a contest with no one on base, one runner on base, two runners on and in the most dreaded situation, three runners on base.

This is truly living on the edge while walking on a tightrope. Some can handle the situation while others simply cannot.

Kyle Nicol throwing for Burroughs during his senior season. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Onetime Burroughs High pitcher Kyle Nicol was a reliever and then a starting pitcher during his senior season.

After playing one season at Cal State University Northridge, Nicol, who doesn’t throw hard and comes sidearm with an almost submarine-like motion, redshirted the next because of an injury.

Nicol then transferred to Glendale Community College where he was both a starting pitcher and a reliever.

Nicol will attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this fall, where he will continue his baseball career as a reliever.

What was the experience like playing for CSUN and then playing for the Vaqueros?

“There were a lot of factors that led to my transfer to Glendale,” said Nicol, who played four years for the Indians. “Part of the decision was based on academics and some had to do with the culture of the school and baseball team. I just felt that it was not a good fit for me personally.”

There had to be some positive that Nicol, who appeared in 17 games with eight starts and two saves for GCC in 2019, took away the lone season as a Matador?

“I learned lessons at CSUN that are invaluable,” he said. “It helped me learn to fight through adversity and deal with difficult situations, on and off the field.”

Kyle Nicol with his parents, Doug and Rose. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

It seems that the fit was much better at GCC for Nicol, who went 0-3 with a 4.23 earned-run average and 38 strikeouts with 16 walks across 38 and one-third innings, despite it being a junior college. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more of my experience at Glendale,” he said. “The program is run very well and the coaches do a lot for their players. Transferring to Glendale helped me get to Cal Poly and was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m extremely thankful for everyone over at GCC.”

Nicol said the surgery was necessary and though it ruined his second season at CSUN, he’s ready to move forward.

“The surgery was a setback, but I’ve fully recovered and I feel better than ever on the mound,” he said.

As a reliever, it’s critical that one doesn’t get rattled and out of sorts.

Nicol wasn’t when he pitched for Burroughs and has maintained that assuredness three years later.

What does Nicol feel is his best quality on the hill when he’s facing a tough batter in a tough situation? “I would say my best asset is my composure,” he said.

Nicol wasn’t a hard thrower at the prep level, but was still able to get batters out. Did Nicol have a secret weapon?

“I feel that my best pitch is the slider,” he said when asked what he likes to throw when it’s a tight situation.

Someone who knows Nicol, who started five games with eight appearances and one save while posting a 3.68 ERA in 22 frames in the Western State Conference, is longtime Burbank-area baseball coach Craig Sherwood, who was the head man for Burroughs during the time Nicol played there.

“When I first saw him throw I thought he would be a natural submarine type pitcher,” he said. “All I really did was give him an opportunity and he made it special.”

Kyle Nicol was a dominant starting pitcher who used a submarine style. (Photo by Dick Dornan)

What does Sherwood think made Nicol stand out in a crowd?

“One of the things that makes Kyle special is his competitiveness and the will to succeed,” he noted. “It is something that is inherent in all great players. He gets into a big situation and excels every time.”

The game that drew attention to Nicol, who fanned 17 and walked nine in WSC action, from Division I baseball coaches was the gem he threw at perennial power Harvard-Westlake in 2016 title game that clinched the prestigeous Easton Tournament.

As a relief pitcher, does Nicol feel any additional pressure knowing that it’s generally late in the game and it’s a high-leverage situation when he’s called in?

“I try to treat every game the same,” he said. “As a reliever, I have to be ready every day, so a good throwing routine is important.”

As one gets older, and especially in sports, each level should get more difficult. Has Nicol noticed this to be the case as he’s progressed as a baseball player?

“The competition is definitely better as you climb the ladder,” he said. “Everyone is trying to make it to the next level.”

When someone begins playing baseball, many have desires of playing at the highest level. Is Nicol any different?

“It’s every ballplayer’s dream to play professional baseball,” he said. “When so many of your teammates or former teammates get drafted and sign pro contracts, it’s a huge motivator to try to reach that level as well. I just want to play for as long as the game allows me to.”

Nicol said that watching college teams on television and then actually playing against them was a thrill.

“Pitching against teams that I grew up watching at schools like UCLA and Vanderbilt is pretty cool,” he said.

Classes at Nicol’s third college begin soon and he’s looking forward to a new chapter in both his studies and baseball career.

“I’m excited to start at Cal Poly with a clean slate and see what the future holds,” he said.