For 60 minutes each week, UC Davis defensive end Bobby Erskine does all he can to create havoc across the line of scrimmage.
But off the field, there is a very different Mr. Erskine — a humanitarian who spends much of his time away from school trying to make things right in a world stretched thin.
“As athletes — especially football players — we’re kind of put on a platform,” the junior standout explains. “Younger kids look up to older athletes, looking at their example. I’m just trying to be a positive role model … to be more than a football player.”
A San Diego native and one of seven kids of Molly and Jim Erskine, the Aggie defender recently spent time in Mexico building, delivering supplies and learning more about his hosts.
After the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Erskine was quick to offer his services in the worldwide relief effort.
“I found it a powerful experience,” Erskine continues. “The thing about (Haiti), yes, they’re a Third World country, but they’re happy. (In) Mexico as well. You see the people and they’re happy.
“You don’t need all the luxuries that we have. They still live their lives, they’re great people, they’re people of faith and it just was a really powerful experience to share.”
As much as Erskine cares for his fellow man off the field, he has little regard for him on the gridiron.
In an injury-plagued 2010, the 6-foot-3, 250-pounder had 35 tackles, saving his best work for the last game.
During the Aggies’ 17-16 Causeway Classic victory over visiting Sacramento State, Erskine fought through a downpour to record 11 stops, including his season’s lone sack.
No. 42 also recovered a fumble in the season opener at Cal.
So, what’s more satisfying to this UCD English major: rebuilding a school in Mexico or two sacks on a goal-line stand?
“For instant gratification, I’m gonna say the quarterback sacks,” laughs Erskine, still a little banged up after a recent practice. “But it’s definitely more fulfilling helping out a family.
“Remember, football is just a game. At the end of the day, what we do on the field is not important. We’re just there to entertain … to put on a show for the people.
“Nothing. Nothing can beat helping … (with) real-life issues.”
Veteran UCD head coach Bob Biggs knows he’s got a one-of-a-kind young man in Erskine …
“He epitomizes what every coach looks for — and that’s that he gives you 100 percent all the time,” Biggs says. “Now I’ll be the first to say — and Bobby would agree — I don’t think he’s playing up to his potential.”
But Biggs adds that Erskine’s technique is growing, and he loves the lineman’s contributions as a team captain and his buy-in when a coach makes a suggestion.
“He says ‘Yes, sir, coach.’ ” Biggs continues. “Some athletes you get that because they want you to stop talking. With Bobby, that’s not the case. He wants to get better.”
Biggs goes on to says that with “everything he does there’s integrity and a sense of responsibility. He’s sincere. He walks the walk and has the ultimate respect from all his teammates.”
Come Saturday, a 6 p.m. showdown with the University of San Diego at Aggie Stadium, a lion’s share of Erskine’s southland family will be in the stands — including big brother Michael, a USD graduate.
“He’s been talking a little trash to me,” baby brother Bobby says, that infectious laugh again taking over. “I mean it’s his alma mater, so obviously he’s going to (rub it in) a little.”
So, will Erksine know where his family is sitting, just in case the season’s first sack is at hand for little brother?
“Oh yeah. If it happens, I’ll point to him — like, ‘What’s up, Mike?’ ”
Notes: Erskine received the George Belenis Award as the UCD redshirt freshman of the year in 2009. He was an all-league player for St. Augustine High and made All-CIF Academic Team honors. Erskine, who has been named to the Allstate Good Works Team for off-the-field contributions, urges high school and college students to “find a service group on campus and join.” Erskine is a member of the Aggie Athletes in Action branch.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 747-8047.