Erdman chooses Coastal Carolina

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 22, 2006

By Bret Strelow

Salisbury Post

Ben Erdman glanced at the golf cart and then noticed the coach standing next to it.

Coastal Carolina’s David Bennett turned his head away from a conversation with an instructor at Carol White’s kicking camp in Conway, S.C., and made eye contact with Erdman.

“I guess it was like love at first sight,” Erdman said with a laugh.

The Chanticleers’ interest in Erdman elevated that day, and he reciprocated by committing to Coastal last week.

The decision followed a series of sacrifices from Erdman, an all-county punter who gave up soccer four years ago and opted to keep attending West Rowan after his family moved to Dallas, Ga., in the summer of 2005.

“Right now I’m just living a dream — a big dream of mine,” he said. “I came back to follow some goals I wanted to fulfill. It’s always been a dream to play college ball.”

Erdman stopped playing soccer so he could focus on football. He kicked for West’s varsity team as a sophomore, but his father took a job in Georgia working for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes before the start of the next school year.

Jennings and Jeanette Nelson, who attended the same Cleveland church as the Erdmans, were willing to serve as Ben’s host family. Erdman considers Justin Nelson, one of three siblings, a close friend.

“I hope we’ve been a blessing to him; he’s definitely been a blessing to us,” Jeanette Nelson said. “It’s been like raising another one of my children.”

Bennett left Catawba five years ago to build a program from scratch in Conway, which is approximately 170 miles from Salisbury and 380 miles from Dallas.

Erdman watched Coastal earn an emotional win against Furman just five days after Bennett’s mother died, and the Chanticleers reached the I-AA playoffs for the first time.

Former West Rowan star Ben Hampton and former West Iredell kicker Josh Hoke were seniors on the team that fell to national champion Appalachian State in the first round.

“I felt a sense of peace down there and felt right at home,” Erdman said. “I felt like it’s where I fit in most, plus it just fits my personality. I love the beach, no doubt about it.”

Erdman put his personality on display at the Carol White camp and followed a strong showing with a stellar senior season.

He won a punting competition at the end of camp but made as big of an impression at the beginning by accepting a leadership role among his fellow kickers.

“I was just wide-open all week,” Erdman said. “During the week, some kids didn’t really want to talk and were real shy. One meeting, I stood up and said, ‘I’m not going to be here all week and y’all not get along.’ I stood up and started acting crazy, and everybody got along then.”

Erdman made the all-county team as a junior and finished his senior year with a 37.3-yard punting average, eight field goals and 51 extra points.

He kicked two 38-yard field goals, including a game-winner, in a 6-3 playoff victory against Greensboro Grimsley in 2004. He topped that effort in the fourth game of the 2006 season.

Erdman made a 35-yard field goal and produced a touchback after each of West’s four scores in a 23-13 victory against Salisbury. The Falcons were backed up inside their own 10 before Erdman’s first punt, and he boomed a 48-yarder. He averaged 43.2 yards on five kicks.

“That Salisbury game was just a highlight tape,” Erdman said. “That’s what we sent out to schools. I still look back on that game and am like, ‘Wow, what a game.’ ”

Erdman’s ability caught the attention of Bennett, who watched Shrine Bowl practice last Monday and visited Mount Ulla a day later.

Erdman joked that he has “Wednesday night phone dates” with Bennett, who can call recruits once a week.

“He’s going to a good place,” West coach Scott Young said. “In the next four years, he should have a realistic chance to compete for a national championship.”

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Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258

or bstrelow@salisburypost.com.

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