ASU wide receiver lost both parents at early age

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Before I could start my interview with Eric Lauderdale, the former 4-star recruit needed to reach down and grab a few Powerade bottles he saw on the turf. Not because he was thirsty after a grueling Todd Graham practice. Nope; he was picking up some trash that a few of his teammates accidentally left on the ground.

It was impressive. In the modern world of football, the wide receiver is often the team diva. But, that’s not Eric Lauderdale. Every time we have spoken to him on camera, he appears charismatic, yet quiet and reserved.

His demeanor is in stark contrast to his playing style. This is an explosive receiver who racked up more than 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns in two seasons at Saddleback Community College in California.

He also set a single game record while on the Orange County campus with 13 catches for 255 yards and four touchdowns.

The 6’2”, 200 pound wide receiver has the size and speed college offensive coordinators covet. The former Georgia high schooler de-committed from Tennessee and later turned down offers from Oregon and Florida to sign with the Devils.

“He is fast,” says ASU Head Coach Todd Graham. “He is going to be a guy who can stretch the field for us.”

Despite those glowing remarks, Lauderdale is incredibly humble, telling us he got this far on athleticism.

“I am busting my tail out here,” laughs Lauderdale. “I think this is the most I have ever busted my tail, but I know it’s going to better me. I got here being average. I wouldn’t say average, but I was always athletic. But, ever since I started working this hard, I feel like I am getting better.”

Although Fall Practice is hard, it’s nothing compared to the turmoil Eric Lauderdale has already overcome. When he was just a year old, his father was shot and killed. Then, his mother lost her battle with cancer when he was in high school.

He tells us his grades suffered after his mom passed away. Which, anyone who has lost a loved one to cancer can understand. The poor grades sent the Division 1 schools he was talking to running for the hills.

But, he didn’t give up on his dreams. He spent the next few years living with various family members. Lauderdale says he enrolled in a military prep school as a fifth year senior. He followed that up with two years at Saddleback College, before landing in Tempe.

“I deal with it every day. Coach Graham has us put pictures up in our locker to have someone motivate you. So, I have my sister, my Grandma, my Mom and my Dad. I look at it every morning before practice. And, it just motivates me out here on the field.”

He also gets some motivation from fellow JUCO transfer Jaelen Strong. Last season, Strong earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors when he hauled in 75 passes for 1,122 yards and 7 touchdowns. 

Eric Lauderdale tells us, “Things are moving fast for me. I just need to stand up tall and figure it out. I will be OK.”    

Something tells me, the modest athlete will be more than just OK.