Ian Eriksen carried the ball 319 times in Clarkston’s 12 games last season.
That is an average of 27 times a game vs. defensive players trying to hit him, and it does not include the number of times he was hit after catching a pass, carrying out a fake or blocking.
So he took a bunch of hits last fall. But after each hit, Eriksen came back for more.
“My job as a running back, as I look at it, is to just do as the coaches ask of me,” he said. “If they need me to take keep carrying the ball, I say, ‘Yes, of course.’ “
The reason Eriksen never asks coach Kurt Richardson to call a different play is because he has spent the past eight months preparing to carry the ball as many times as it takes to get the Wolves a win.
“A lot of it is just getting your body ready for that many carries and getting hit that many times,” he said. “A lot of it is mental, too, just knowing that you’re going to get the ball and doing your best to do what you can with all those carries.”
To that end, Eriksen, 5-feet-10, 190 pounds, is a maniac in the weight room — he can bench 350 pounds. But lifting weights can do only so much for you, which is why Eriksen also runs track. He was sixth in Division 1’s 200 meters in June and has run a personal-best 21.8 seconds in the event.
But Eriksen, who has committed to Eastern Michigan, takes his preparation past lifting weights and running sprints. He goes back to before he began lifting weights.
“When I grew up, I was doing push-ups,” he said. “I figured if you’re bored, rather than causing trouble or playing video games, do some push-ups. It will make you better and get you stronger.”
Eriksen estimates he has been doing between 100 and 150 push-ups a day for the past 10 to 12 years, which brings his total well into six figures.
He also does sit-ups and wide-grip pull-ups, but push-ups is his go-to exercise.
“Being a running back, a lot of it is you’re getting tackled all the time,” he said. “It’s always your shoulders that typically take it. Your shoulders and your head and neck, and push-ups are good to maintain that strength and build the strength in the shoulders and neck and chest.
“The stronger your shoulders are, the more hits you can take and keep going.”
The emergence of quarterback D.J. Zezula as a better passer this year means Clarkston might have more weapons than Eriksen going right, left or up the middle.
“I’ve known D.J. since I was 8 years old, so me and him are really, really good friends,” Eriksen said. “We played together in Little League, so I know he has the ability to pass the ball.”
Eriksen’s 319 carries netted him 2,167 yards and more than 30 touchdowns last season. He could gain even more yards because of the development of a massive offensive line featuring Nick Matich, 6-3, 290, who committed to Western Michigan, and Michigan State-bound David Beedle, 6-5, 300.
“Other than them being big in stature, they’re smart,” Eriksen said. “All those guys on the line have great ability to know their job and to be where they need to be. They’re great to have because they’re big and they’re smart. Running behind them is going to be a lot of fun.”
Join us Thursday for a live chat during the opening night of Michigan high school football. We’ll have scoring updates, analysis and much more. And if you’re at a game, please tweet score updates with a #mipreps hash tag to keep everyone in the know.