"He's short. He's not fast. He looks like he should be bagging my groceries at my local Albertsons instead of playing safety for my favorite NFL team. There just isn't anything exciting about him that would draw me in as a fan."
I told that to a close friend, who just so happens to be a huge Eric Weddle fan, about four years ago now and he laughed at me. He told me I'd come around one day; that it was only a matter of time before Weddle was one of my favorite players.
Boy oh boy, he couldn't have been more right.
Although I held Weddle in much higher regard after his 2011 and 2012 breakout seasons, it wasn't until I read No Excuses, No Regrets: The Eric Weddle Story this past week that I was entirely sold.
Trent Toone, the book's author, brilliantly details Weddle's athletic career from Pop Warner to the Chargers, intertwining the high and low moments of Weddle's personal life along the way. Although the stories about him in the athletic setting are neat to read about for obvious reasons, the stories about Weddle in the personal setting are the most powerful. Those were the parts that left me wanting to be a better person.
All in all, it's a story about an athlete who has always been determined to prove his doubters wrong and about a man who cares about his family, faith and fellow man above all else.
Although we'll cover some of my favorite parts of the book, every single one of you on BFTB should read it on your own - it's really that good.
"Football isn't everything in life. When I am ninety and people look back, they aren't going to look at how many touchdowns I scored," [Weddle said]. "They will want to know if I helped someone out or changed a life, if I was a good husband or father. I can't base my life on whether or not I was a good football player. So I try to keep that in perspective and know I can do so many greater things in life."
See, I told you. Now go be a better person. (And hey, reading this book wouldn't be a bad start.)
Weddle was a stud baseball player in high school and many believe he could have played in the Majors if he would have chosen to pursue that route. During a game in his junior year, a pitcher on his team hit an opposing batter. You can probably guess what happened next.
When Eric Weddle strutted to the mound to lead off the home team in the bottom of the first, he had no idea the A.B. Miller pitcher might be gunning for him. As the first pitch was fired, Eric eyed the white sphere's rotation and expected it to curve. It did not. Instead the high fastball sailed straight into his face, smashing against his left eye.
The doctor who examined Eric reported a fractured eye socket, with damage to his lower orbital and cheekbone. His eyeball was pushed back a half inch into his skull, and his eye was swollen shut, colored red and purple. As horrible as it looked the doctor said Eric was lucky. "An inch to the left or the right and I could have been blind," Eric said.
Ouch. In the end, though, the injury caused Weddle to quit baseball and focus on football, and we're all thankful for that. By the way, how about getting him out to Petco to hit some batting practice? Get on it, Padres.
Weddle isn't all perfect, though; he does have this rather hilarious - and sometimes dangerous - sleepwalking problem. Chanel, his wife, talks about it in the book, so I'll let her do the same here.
"Most of the time, we just talk while he is asleep," Chanel said. "But there have been times he has yelled out football plays and lines from movies. Once he threw a suitcase into the wall, creating a hole the size of a softball. Another time he turned on the light and started screaming because he thought he saw someone trying to get into the house. One time he thought there was a huge spider on the wall, and he attacked it with a lamp."
Please, oh please, can somebody from the Chargers put a camera in Weddle's room on a road trip to catch one of those moments? That would be gold.
I couldn't help but laugh at this next part. Weddle is such a character that it's no wonder why his teammates love him.
On the drive back to his home, I learned that Eric has a tendency to sleepwalk, he loves to play all kinds of video games, and lives for action movies with sword-fighting warriors and epic battle scenes. For added game day inspiration, he has downloaded to his iPod memorable dialogue from films such as Braveheart, Troy, and The Lord of the Rings. The well-rounded Weddle has also read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series and favors werewolves. "Jacob is so much more real than Edward," he explained.
I'm personally on Team Jacob, Eric, but we'll let that one go. The dialogue from Braveheart, Troy and The Lord of the Rings to listen to on game day is fantastic. I wonder if Weddle has ever caught an interception and yelled, "My precious!" If not, you know what to do next time you're mic'd up for NFL Films, Eric.
And finally, here's probably my favorite Weddle story. He was invited back to Utah in 2008 to be an honorary coach in the school's Red and White spring game. His former head coach at Utah and close friend, Kyle Whittingham, tells the story.
"After the white squad scored a touchdown, we put Eric out there to kick the PAT, which was about the only thing he hadn't done for us in his time at Utah. Perhaps that was a good thing, because his kick was low and was easily blocked. The ball bounced toward the sideline, where it was scooped up by a player from the red squad. As the defensive player began to run it back, Eric, dressed in shorts, a golf shirt, and untied sneakers, with a cell phone on his belt and hat on backwards, bolted after him. But just before Eric could make the tackle, the defensive player pitched the ball back to one of his teammates. With several thousand Ute fans cheering, Eric took off in pursuit of the player and, some 50 yards later, Eric finally caught him just before he reached the other end zone and playfully fell on top of him."
Yeah, we're beyond lucky that this guy is a member of the San Diego Chargers, and that we get to watch him play every Sunday in the Fall. Hopefully it'll stay that way for many, many years to come.
Once again, go out and get you own copy of No Excuses, No Regrets and actually read it.
You won't regret it. Just be forewarned: it'll turn you into a huge Eric Weddle fan.