ROCK ISLAND – All-American football player. Academic All-American. Double major on track to graduate in four years.
Erik Westerberg seems to have it all going for him at Augustana College.
The York graduate is heading into his senior year with the Vikings after being named to the first team defense as a linebacker on USA Football’s preseason All-American team. Westerberg won the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin’s Defensive Player of Year award last fall and was named a second team CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-American for the second year in a row.
He is hoping to replicate that individual success while helping the Vikings win the CCIW title this season. Last year the Vikings were 4-3 in the league and only lost to the three teams – Elmhurst, North Central and Wheaton – that shared the title.
“Individually I have high standards for the way I play,” Westerberg said. “I hope to be an All-American again, Player of the Year again and an Academic All-American again.
“It’s a great honor obviously and you feel proud for being recognized with such a high class of football players, but I look past it. My focus is on winning a conference championship. The main goal always is for our team to win the conference. That comes with a lot of players needing to do a lot of great things.”
Westerberg, who is double majoring in math and education, just returned with his team from a trip to France. The Vikings took on the French National Team, a team of semi-pro football players that Westerberg said were older and stronger. He said the Vikings were faster and more technically sound.
The Vikings left for France on July 23 and spent the first couple days at Normandy to see the World War II Memorial. The trip lasted for eight days and included Augustana’s 20-13 win over France in a game played in Lille.
“It was neat to go to a different country with all your best friends,” Westerberg said. “I’ve never had an experience like that.”
Playing in France as one of the team’s captains is a long way from when Westerberg first hit the Rock Island campus.
“It was really kind of a shock freshman year of how good the football we were playing was,” Westerberg said. “You play to the speed that your competition is at. You just gotta play faster and train faster.”
After a full offseason of college workouts, Westerberg made the adjustment physically and mentally to become the Vikings’ leading tackler as a sophomore. Last year as a junior he made 118 tackles, had four sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery.
The sophomore year improvement mimicked his high school career, when Westerberg was called up to varsity for the first time and the Dukes won the West Suburban Silver.
“That was one of the best years of football I’ve had playing and the most fun I’ve had playing,” Westerberg said.