As the end of the regular season grows closer, we will soon see the end of an era for the Old Dominion University football program. This marks the final year for the inaugural recruiting class that started from scratch in 2008. Many of those players are now playing vital roles in the Monarchs current success on the field.One of the biggest components is defensive end Erik Saylor. Saylor was one of 15 other players that redshirted during the 2008 season and his presence has been felt ever since. In each of his four seasons he has played in at least eight games and recorded two sacks. His durability, leadership, and experience have made him the foundation of the Monarch defense.
Statistically, Saylor is having his best season to date here at ODU. He ranks fourth in assists and leads in fumble recoveries. He has developed a reputation as a player who seems to always be around the ball. Saylor continues to demonstrate his leadership qualities by consistently making big plays at crucial times during the game.
He had a key pass deflection that led to an interception in a victory at Towson on Oct. 20. More recently, he had a huge sack to prevent Delaware from tying the game on a two-point conversion on Oct. 27.
“That one felt good,” he said. “That was a big win for us. We really wanted that one especially since they beat us last year.” Saylor credits his teammates for his own personal success this year. “I’m being put in good spots to make these plays,” he said.
Although he is happy with where the team is he knows he and his teammates need to stay focused and not let thoughts of the postseason get to them. “As a defense we can improve our tackling. Missed tackles [are] something we struggle with.” Saylor’s very first experience with football came when he was just seven years old and it was by accident. While coming home from a family vacation he saw a group of kids signing up to play. “It was really just because I saw other kids doing it, I asked my dad to help and it’s been a part of my life ever since,” he said.
Saylor cites his father as one of his biggest inspirations both on and off the field. Scott Saylor played football at West Virginia University and played one season of NFL football. “He knew what it took to get there, what makes you a great player and I’ve looked up to him throughout my football career.”As Saylor reflects on his time with ODU, he is happy with his decision. “I really wanted to be part of history,” he said. Saylor had offers out of high school from programs that were more established. “There are only so many times you can be the first person to do a certain thing.” Saylor said.
From everything he saw and from what coaches told him, he knew the potential was great at ODU. Over the years he has seen the program grow and gain respect and become what it is today. The camaraderie that this program has built between these original recruits is special. “We are a family,” he said. “We are so close. Not being around them on a daily basis will be different.” Saylor has a plan, whether it involves football or not. Law enforcement interests him, specifically federal law if football is not in his future. “One of my biggest goals coming into this year was to have no regrets going out,” he said. “I have absolutely none.”By: Matt O’brien