In the beginning of the season you might have noticed Eric Gehrig, for his golden locks. Now that the Columbus Crew are sitting atop the Eastern Conference you notice Gehrig, for his play on the pitch. The rookie has logged 304 minutes, played in five matches, starting three, and he has a lot of love for the capital city. He took some time to sit down with TheCrew.com's Ashleigh Ignelzi to go 1v1.
AI: When did you know you wanted to be a professional soccer player?
EG: I honestly don't know when I thought to myself that I wanted to be a professional soccer player. Probably when my college career started to go well. It's tough because in high school I didn't play on the varsity squad right away, I was skinny, I hadn't grown into my body but towards the end of my junior/senior year I got a couple of looks. I ended up going to Loyola and in college the transition from my sophomore/ junior year in college was when I knew I could play professionally.
AI: Has the reality of being a professional athlete set in?
EG: I think to myself that it hasn't hit me yet but then there are the moments where it does, when a little kid recognizes me, I see that kids look up to me. I'm playing on a bigger stage than I ever have before. When stuff like that happens it really hits you.
*Sidenote* At the conclusion of this interview Eric, was recognized by a fan and it was ironically awesome.
AI: Is it crazy for you that one day you are lining up next to David Beckham and a few days later you're facing Newcastle United?
EG: I try to just go with it, I wasn't really nervous before the Galaxy game, probably the least nervous I've been in all of my career. When you line up on the field you realize that's David Beckham, that's Landon Donovan, but then there isn't much time to be in awe because at the end of the day I represent the Columbus Crew and I'm going against the LA Galaxy. When I look at it from an outsider’s perspective it's pretty crazy, I was in USA Today, friends from all over the county where texting me saying they saw a picture of Becks and I. Playing Newcastle was special and I'll never forget it, I got Demba Ba's jersey, he took mine and I took his, it was pretty cool.
AI: Any moments that standout in your professional career more than others?
EG: My first start at Vancouver, I found out not too long before the game that I was starting. For my first start to be on the road, in a hostile environment, in front of 20,000 screaming Canadians banging on the bleachers, while I'm standing in the tunnel. I thought I did pretty well and then Jeff scored, I could have run for three more days! I finally felt like I had contributed. That was a big moment for me.
AI: How important of a role does your family play in your life?
EG: They play a huge role in my life. If I were to go outside and kick a ball in the front yard I think my Dad would come outside and watch. They have been there for me all along the way, they were the first people I called when the Crew offered me a contract and my Mom started to cry right away. My family comes to almost every home game and they feel bad when they can't come but I know the traveling is hard. The excitement that they have for me you can't even imagine.
AI: If you weren't playing professional soccer what would you be doing?
EG: My dream if I wasn't playing soccer would be to work in the sports industry, working with stats, play-by-play, SportsCenter. I did play-by-play in college once and it was like peanut butter and jelly. Also, my Dad owns financial firm, he has a good gig with investments and accounting. My brother works with him and I know that slowly my Dad will turn it over to us, long term I'll probably do that. It's helpful to people and I like making people happy.
AI: We talked about moments that standout but what has been the most memorable?
EG: The day I signed my contract, I will never forget. It was on Valentine’s Day and it was the best Valentine’s Day I could’ve ever had. Don't get me wrong, I love my past girlfriends but this was the best. It was very, very exciting, it's been fun, I am very thankful for the Crew and this opportunity. Another was coming in the locker room and seeing my name on the back of a jersey and being able to represent the Columbus Crew.
AI: What has been the most challenging moment?
EG: As much as the game is physical, it's very mental, it can be stressful and it's not like things are guaranteed. If you have a bad day you never know if there is another day to prove yourself, now, money is involved and there are expectations to perform. It’s important to rebound from a bad day, or if things don't go your way and you thought you were going to dress, you have to have a level head and not get frustrated. I realize I am playing behind exceptional players, when I get my chance I am always going to take it and I think I have.
AI: What gives you strength?
EG: My teammates give me strength because whether I'm playing the game, sitting on the bench or at training, I want to win. Seeing us in first place and proving people wrong who say we are rebuilding gives me strength.
AI: Finish this sentence for me, Eric Gehrig is a great teammate because?
EG: I will do anything for my teammates, for my coaches, the club and the fans of Columbus. I am blessed to be in the position I'm in, I love what I'm doing and realize it's not about me. I am glad to be a part of this and I want to win.
AI: What is success to you?
EG: Obviously I want to win an MLS Championship but I want to be really happy with what I'm doing and enjoying my life. Life is special.
AI: Last one, where do you see yourself in ten years?
EG: I'll be 33, hopefully I'll still be playing professional soccer somewhere, I still have a lot to prove and I'd love to be here in Columbus. I'd love to continue the traditions here in Columbus as one of the best MLS teams in the history of the league. It would be a dream to play in Germany or overseas because my Dad is from Germany, I grew up watching Bundesliga and Bayern Munich is my favorite team. Overall, still playing professional soccer and have a nice family, living well and everyone is healthy.
AI: Are there kids?
EG: There are kids, I would like a couple of kids, a nice wife but that's going to be a while. Now I have to focus on soccer.
AI: A nice German broad?
EG: She doesn't have to be German but that would help, a nice blond hair and blue eyed, young lady.