ELMHURST — Erik Westerberg returned home on break from Augustana College last week to observe classes at his alma mater, York Community High School, and to talk with some of the teachers that inspired his decision to study education and math. But perhaps the most familiar face he saw was his own, staring down from a large billboard promoting his college on North Avenue.
"It was a pretty unique experience," he said. "I'm just humbled by it. My family, my teachers and coaches and friends helped me get up there for sure. It was a cool experience, but I'm not going to look too much into it."
Westerberg is the Augustana football team's starting middle linebacker, team captain and was named an Academic All-American this year for the second time. To be considered for the Academic All-American honor, student athletes must have a grade point average of at least 3.3 on a 4.0 scale, and have played in at least 50 percent of their team's games, among other qualifications.
"Erik was an outstanding student and football player here," York Community High School Principal Diane Smith said in an email. "But he really stood out at York for his character and leadership. I’m thrilled that he is receiving this kind of recognition."
Westerberg's experience as a student and football player at York inspired him to want to be a high school math teacher and football coach after he graduates.
"I never had a bad math teacher at York," he said. "Teaching math, it's a lifelong skill. I hope to help students acquire that lifelong skill. It's so important in your everyday life. I hope to serve my community in that way. And I just love being around kids and working with them, at camps during the summer, watching them grow. Being a role model for them is something I really enjoy."
Last week's visit was his first time back at York since graduating in 2010.
"It was a pretty cool experience seeing some of my old teachers teach that I used to have but from a different perspective now," he said. "I was able notice teaching strategies and teaching techniques that would have gone way over my head as a student."
He said it's not as unusual as one might think to be a math major on the football team.
"There's a few math majors on our team so it's not out of the ordinary," he said. "I think it's different in Division III, too. Maybe at a Division I school, you might not (have as varied majors)."