Eric Striker isn't the biggest or most physically intimidating linebacker you'll find playing high school football, but he does possess intangibles coaches rave about: closing speed, hitting power and the classic "nose for the football.''
It's those attributes that landed him so many college scholarship offers, including the one he accepted verbally over the summer from Oklahoma. With those skills, Striker is much more than the 6-foot-1, 200-pound player that's listed on the Hawks roster. And defensive coordinator Matt Thompson knows without Striker, who is one of two captains on defense, Armwood just isn't the same.
"He's a high-energy type of guy who's at the top of his game all the time,'' Thompson said. "The pressure he brings on a quarterback is something that doesn't show up in the stats but most people don't realize how important that is. Opposing teams always have to account for Eric because of the pressure he creates.''
Armwood coach Sean Callahan says Striker the type of player a coach misses once their gone because of the example he sets to the rest of the squad.
"I wish everyone had a player like Eric Striker. He's there every day, he works as hard as anyone and he just makes life fun,'' Callahan said. "He's a special kid.''
Striker says his work ethic and attitude is something that has been instilled by his family. When the ball snaps, he says it's just time to "get after it and don't sit back and wait.'' In more precise terms, most coaches say Striker has something called "closing speed,'' an ability to get to the ball quickly and effectively.
It's something not necessarily seen on a stopwatch, but it's a trait coaches can easily spot on film. And it's something Striker says he can feel as he closes in on a ball carrier.
"It's almost like I'm speeding up as I get closer to the ball while other guys are slowing down,'' Striker said.
Striker says his main goal this season is the same as his teammates: to get back to the state title game and take care of some "unfinished business.'' The Hawks lost the Class 4A state championship game last season to a Tallahassee Lincoln team that most predicted they would beat. Instead, Lincoln won 17-14 to end Armwood's season bitterly at 14-1.
Striker models his individual quest to the championship game after one of his favorite groups, The Temptations, one of the most successful recording acts ever of Motown Records. Striker says early in their career, The Temptations were striving to perform live at the Copacabana, a famous New York City nightclub. For Striker, the Copa is Orlando's Citrus Bowl, where this year's state title games will be held once again.
"And The Temptations got there with hard work, just like we will,'' Striker said. "And when we get there, we're going to do like they did — we're going to bring the house down.''