Preseason Chat: Eric Douglass

Preseason Chat: Eric Douglass

Midshipmen center Eric Douglass thought he was in for a challenge when he stepped onto the field for his first collegiate start against Notre Dame last season. Little did he know that an even greater challenge awaited him in the classroom back in Annapolis.

Douglass, who took over at center for the final four regular season games on 2009, was instrumental in helping Navy punch its ticket to the Texas Bowl. But when it came to actually playing in the postseason, the former nose guard couldn't make the grade; literally. Much to his own embarrassment, Douglass was declared academically ineligible for the bowl game after failing Physics in the fall semester. But true to form, this Midshipman proved that resiliency isn't just a trait of Navy football players on the field, but off them as well. GoMids.com checked in with Douglass recently, and got the scoop on his academic progress, his rise from obscurity, and his outlook heading into the 2010 campaign.

GoMids.com: Word on the street is that you had a pretty good semester.

Eric Douglass:(Laughs). After my downfall – I guess you could call it – I got a 3.0 this last semester. It bumped my grade back up and really helped a lot.

GoMids.com: If you don't mind me asking, what happened in the fall which made you lose your eligibility?

Eric Douglass:I did pretty well overall grade wise. What really brought me down was my physics grade. It's a four credit class, so it is huge in determining your GPA. I ended up taking a "D" in that class and it brought me down below the 1.9 mark that I needed to have to be eligible. I took it again the next semester and got an "A" in it, so that really boosted my GPA. GoMids.com: Was that the first time you've had problems with academic issues? Yea. I'm not the smartest guy, but that was really the first time ever.

GoMids.com: What was it like for you to miss the bowl game? Was missing the game and having that learning experience incentive to get better in the classroom during the spring?

Eric Douglass:It was probably the most embarrassing thing I've ever experienced in my life. Not only did I let myself down, but I let the team down and let my family down. I told myself that I could never let it happen again, so it was a huge incentive for me to bounce back from that and make good grades so I could keep playing.

Just because were varsity athletes and play football doesn't mean we don't have to do the normal Midshipmen mission. We still wake-up early and meet the demanding standards which are set. And after all of (our duties as Mids) are done everyday we go to two and a half hour football practices. It's extremely demanding and then we have to come back to the Midshipmen life. It's a struggle to keep your grades up while doing the military thing and the football thing. It can be a real struggle.

GoMids.com: Does having the extra time in the spring help?

Eric Douglass:Yea. We have so much more time in the spring when we're not practicing. It frees up two and a half hours a day to do homework and get things right.

GoMids.com: Did any of your teammates and/or coaches help you in getting back on track academically?

Eric Douglass: John Dowd, who has a 4.0 on the team, tutored me a little bit. I would go to him for help, and I'd have to turn in grade reports each week to my position coach, (Ashley) Ingram. That would help me keep on track.

GoMids.com: Do you feel secure in your spot on the depth chart going into the fall, or do you anticipate a continued position battle?

Eric Douglass:I never really feel secure. There is always going to be someone to battle with for that position. There is always going to be good competition. We have a lot of good talent coming up, so it's always a battle. I think it's good because it keeps me playing scared. It keeps everyone playing scared. It makes you push the envelope of what you're capable of because you're always trying to play better, trying to beat the guy next to you.

All those guys -- Matt Coach, Kahikolu Pescala and Brady DeMell -- we're all really good friends. I think it also helps to push us. We all push each other because we know what we're capable of. We have a lot of good talent and we're willing to work hard, so we push each other. Like I said, we're really good friends. When it comes to football there is no class structure. There is no plebe or third class. We're all just football players, so we have a really good relationship.

GoMids.com: You snapped to Ricky Dobbs in games last year, but this spring I know you worked a lot with Kriss Proctor. Is there a difference between snapping for Ricky and Kriss?

Eric Douglass:Oh yea. As you know, Kriss is left handed. It seems like it wouldn't be, but it was a little bit of an issue getting the ball into his hands initially. But after a few snaps I got used to it. Snapping and taking your steps and getting up to the next level is really not that hard to do. It's just learning your plays. Learning where to go can be the hard thing.

GoMids.com: It seems like playing with Ricky would be a little more forgiving to. Him being a human bettering ram and all…

Eric Douglass:He's just so football savvy. You know he's going to make something if there is nothing.

GoMids.com: What was making your first start against Notre Dame like? What was going through your head that day? Did you expect to play so well?

Eric Douglass:That was the most nervous I have ever been in my entire life. I was so nervous I had to go throw up in the bathroom. It was my first start, and for it to come against Notre Dame – which in our minds' is a huge rivalry – it was wild.

GoMids.com: Did you have any idea that you'd play so well, or were you just as surprised as everyone watching?

Eric Douglass:It was just a pleasant surprise in my mind. I went out there just thinking to myself that I just need to do my job and do what I can do, play hard and see what happens.

GoMids.com: What originally attracted you to Navy? Did you have any other offers coming out of HS?

Eric Douglass:Numerous things attracted me, but mainly I wanted to play football here because with where everywhere (I visited) it was an individual thing with the players. But when I came here it was the Brotherhood. Not only do we have that in football, but also in the classroom. We hang out with each other all the time. We really are a Brotherhood. We are a family, and that's what attracted me to the Naval Academy.

I had a few Division I-AA schools but nothing too big. This was my best shot to play Division 1 college football so I took it. It's ended up working out pretty well for me.

GoMids.com: What's it like playing for someone like coach Ken Niumatalolo?

It's interesting and it's exciting. (Coach Niumatalolo) always keeps you on your toes, and you can tell he really cares. He's really emotionally attached to this team. I think he really looks at us like we're his kids, and he coaches like it to. I can appreciate that.

GoMids.com: How has your background on defense translated into playing on the O-line. Have you found that it's given you an advantage? What has been difficult or different about the transition?

Eric Douglass:I didn't even play center until (last spring). I played defensive line – I was a nose guard. So I didn't even play offensive line and had no center play at all until I got here.

The hardest thing with the transition was learning the plays. It's so methodical on offense and you have to be perfect. On defense you can just kind of go out there and play with your hair on fire. You don't have to worry about much. You just play. On offense you have to take your steps right, block the right person and really work in consort with those around you. It was a big transition.

On defensive line you really got to stay low and be aggressive. I think that is what helps me out at center. It's a skill I've learned from playing defensive line.

GoMids.com: Tell me about your relationship with your ‘arch-rival', Matt Romaine (Notre Dame offensive gaurd)?

Eric Douglass:Ever since we were in third grade we played against each other. We've played each other in all star games and continued to play against each other in high school. (After) we graduated he went to Notre Dame and I came here. He actually played at our arch-rival school, so it's the same now that we're playing at schools which consider themselves nemesis.

GoMids.com: Everyone knows that Ricky Dobbs has quite the arm. Will there be a greater emphasis on the passing game this year?

Eric Douglass:I think Ricky is an excellent passer. We do have the option (to pass more) with him back there, but we're always going to be a running team. That's just our bread and butter.

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