A Moment in the Sun

Laid-back Erb will enjoy this week’s big game for several reasons

by C. Jemal Horton

Charlotte Country Day senior Bryan Erb has caught seven touchdown passes heading into the Bucs’ Friday, Oct. 21, home game against Providence Day. (C. Jemal Horton/SCW photo)

This Friday night, the kid who usually tries to avoid the public glare will bask in it for a few precious moments.

But it won’t be because he’s suddenly become a “look at me” athlete.

No, when Charlotte Country Day football player Bryan Erb walks onto John Cook Field for his final regular-season home game, it will be Senior Night for the Bucs and he’ll be flanked by his parents, John and Monica.

Monica is a Country Day athletic trainer, so Erb will take pride in walking to midfield with his mom – and fellow Buc – on his arm on such an emotion-filled evening.

And, well, there’s one more thing.

John is the head athletic trainer at Providence Day, and he’s spent more than two decades at the school.

The Bucs’ opponent in the Friday, Oct. 21, game?

The Providence Day Chargers, who are third in the Weekly Super 7 rankings and hold first place in the Charlotte Independent Schools Athletic Association.

Although some of his on-the-field performances occasionally have made him the center of attention in the past, Erb hasn’t always enjoyed it. But this week, the low-key wide receiver won’t mind the fact that pretty much everyone in the stadium will be staring at him when he and his parents take the field.

This time, he’s going to embrace it.

“It’s going to be fun to be out there with my dad and see how he handles it,” Erb said with a wide grin. “It’s Senior Night, so he’ll have to come out there with all the Providence Day and Country Day fans looking at him. I can’t wait.”

Not that there haven’t been plenty of other reasons to focus on Erb this season.

Erb is the best in a talented Bucs receiving corps, having posted 16 catches for 349 yards and seven touchdowns. While he averages nearly 22 yards per catch, Erb isn’t just some flashy, downfield threat; he also makes the tough plays for the Bucs, hauling in passes in traffic, just before absorbing a hard hit. The 6-foot-2 Erb prepared for those kinds of duties by getting stronger and bigger during the summer, going from 185 to 200 pounds.

He also worked diligently to prepare for his role as a team leader after spending most of last season as the fourth receiving option behind Wake Hamilton, Brandon Santiago and Lee Harrison. Hamilton, who was an all-state selection, now is a walk-on member at the University of Virginia, while Santiago walked on at East Carolina.

“The three receivers we had were so amazing,” Erb said. “I learned so much just by watching them. To play with them was awesome. I really was just hoping I could carry on what they did last year into this year. That was my main goal this season.”

Erb also spends time at safety for No. 5 Country Day, which has a 6-2 record with an 0-1 mark in CISAA play.

“Last year, we were loaded at (receiver), so Bryan spent time behind some really talented guys,” Bucs coach Bob Witman said. “But he’s stepped up and done well for us this year.

“He’s extremely intelligent, and he’s an overall athlete – he’s a basketball player, and he played baseball, too. But besides being a good athlete, he works hard, and he’s a great kid.”

He’s an honor student who teachers love having in class. On the basketball court, he has the ability to jump over people to score baskets. And on the gridiron, when the Bucs need to make a play through the air, they usually look his way.

So why does Erb work so hard to shun the spotlight?

Even his parents don’t really know. But they like it.

“He’s always been very humble,” Monica said. “He’s always been very worried about coming across as cocky. In fact, he’s always been the opposite – very soft-spoken and low-key about his accomplishments. He doesn’t want to draw attention to himself. He’s not real comfortable with that.

“But what I hear from teachers is them just raving about him, and I would never know that because he won’t say anything about it. That’s one of the things I respect most about him. He’s a humble guy who doesn’t take anything for granted. I think that’s kind of neat.”

But again, for those few moments on Friday, Erb will welcome the public’s gaze. After all, it’s Providence Day Week.

Familiar foe

Sure, Erb will enjoy seeing how his dad handles the parents-player time on the field, but there’s another reason facing Providence Day always is a big deal to him – he used to be a Charger.

Erb’s two older siblings – brother, Richie, and sister, Katie – both are Providence Day graduates. Erb attended the school until seventh grade, when he and his younger sister, Beth, transferred to Country Day, where their mother has spent the past 10 years. Erb wasn’t crazy about the move at first.

“I never played sports for PD at all, but I was kind of worried about the transition just because of the whole rivalry,” he said. “In lower school, you just get the feeling that they’re all bad over here, but I came over here, and I loved it. It’s been awesome.”

Erb’s arrival at Country Day also marked the first time he played organized football. Before that, he’d focused mostly on basketball and baseball, but he soon fell in love with football.

Erb’s toughness and athleticism made him a good fit for football – or any sport, for that matter. However, further illustrating his humility, he was hesitant to answer when a reporter asked Erb if he’d always been a gifted athlete.

“Well, uh …,” he began uncomfortably before a long hesitation. Finally, after being assured he wouldn’t be quoted touting his own athletic talents, Erb let his guard down – slightly.

“I guess all I can say is I thought I was going to be a little bit behind because I didn’t play pee-wee football like a lot of kids, but it wasn’t too bad (starting in seventh grade),” he said. “I was pretty much on par with everyone.”

On Country Day’s middle school and JV teams, Erb enjoyed playing football against his Providence Day pals, but he didn’t often get to compete against the Chargers while his dad was on their sidelines since John typically worked with the varsity squads.

John tries to attend as many of his son’s games as possible. The same goes for Erb’s sister, Beth, who’s a standout basketball and soccer player at Country Day.

“My wife and I text frequently during games when I can’t be there,” John said.

But he’ll be there Friday, draped in his Providence Day paraphernalia. His wife knows what he’ll be going through, since the older Erb children played sports at Providence Day and went through their own Senior Night celebrations.

“I have been in that role, and it’s a little tricky,” Monica said. “I remember when my older son, who played lacrosse and scored his very first goal against us. All of a sudden, I forgot where I was and was like, ‘Yeah!’ and kind of cheered. Everybody on the sideline was looking at me, like, ‘What are you doing?’ But then they understood and said, ‘Oh, that’s your son. It’s OK.’”

John expects the same kind of understanding from his Providence Day co-workers and athletes. But he’s not really worried about it, either.

“Everybody knows – the (Providence Day) kids know, the coaches know,” John said. “There’s a lot of ribbing that goes back and forth, but your job as a trainer is to not get emotionally involved.

“But it is a very awkward situation. I will support both teams, but obviously I’m cheering for my son. I don’t think I’m going to be so conflicted that night. I think I’m just going to be a parent and sit back and watch the game.”

And, together, all the Erbs – the rarely noticed athletic trainers and the unassuming wide receiver – will enjoy their few precious moments in the spotlight.

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