All-star reunionCard grads Colin Erickson and Mark Whiting will be teammates once again during the annual All-Star football game.
By: By Eric Morken, Sports Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
Colin Erickson and Mark Whiting thrilled Alexandria football fans this past season with their ability to connect for scoring strikes from seemingly anywhere on the field.
Erickson’s strong left arm and Whiting’s ability to go up and get anything in his vicinity almost led the Cardinals to the state tournament. The duo hooked up for a 24-yard touchdown against Sartell-St. Stephen in the Section 8AAAA title game with 3.5 seconds left. A two-point conversion came up just short as Alexandria fell 20-18.
At that time, Erickson and Whiting both thought they had connected for a touchdown for the last time. Little did they know they would have many more opportunities in the coming years.
The first of those opportunities comes this weekend. Erickson and Whiting were both invited to the Minnesota High School All-Star Football game that will be played this Saturday at Husky Stadium at St. Cloud State University. After that, the two will take their game to Concordia College in Moorhead where they hope to make the same impact with the Cobbers that they made for the Cardinals this past fall.
The all-star game this weekend gives them a chance to showcase their talents against the best of their peers. Members of the Minnesota Football Coaches Association select a roster of the best seniors from the outstate and metro areas. Erickson and Whiting hope to connect for at least one more long scoring strike before their high school careers are over.
“That would just be a nice little thing to top off our senior year,” Whiting said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. I was really excited to hear that both he and I made it. It’s a huge honor for both of us, and we are both really excited to be there.”
Both players admit there is some incentive to play well against the metro all stars. The general consensus among many is that the best football is played around the Twin Cities area. The main goal for both Erickson and Whiting is to have fun this Saturday, but to prove that they can play with the metro, as well.
“I guess there is always a little bit of a chip [on your shoulder],” Erickson said. “We are kind of overlooked and not seen as having the better competition. Because of that, I’m sure our whole team will practice harder and play a little bit harder. I’m sure they are just expecting to blow us out.”
That is exactly what happened last year. The metro players dominated on their way to a 54-13 win in 2009. They limited the outstate team to just four yards and one first down in the second half of that contest.
The history of this match-up paints a much different picture, though. This year’s game will mark the 31st straight time that the teams have been broken up into players from the metro and players from outstate Minnesota. The two sides have proven to be even over the last 30 years, with each team winning 15 games.
“I just think that says there is just as much talent in outstate areas as there is in the metro,” Whiting said. “The outstate kids obviously work just as hard, and I don’t think they always get credit for that when it comes to this type of game.”
The goal now is to swing the series lead into the their favor.
“Talent’s everywhere,” Erickson said. “It just seems people expect it to be where the big cities are because there’s more kids. I just hope we can go in there and play well and hopefully more kids from these outstate areas can get a few more opportunities from some Division I schools.”
Whiting had that opportunity after a standout senior season. A back injury kept him from playing a single snap in 2008. He bounced back this past fall and immediately made an impact, catching a touchdown in the Cardinals’ opening game against Sauk Rapids-Rice before breaking out with a touchdown and 117 yards receiving against Moorhead in week two.
He continued to put up those kinds of numbers throughout the year. Whiting’s speed and ability to make plays on the ball deep down the field caught the attention of the coaching staff at the University of Minnesota.
Gopher coaches talked to him about walking on at Minnesota. The opportunity to take his chances in the Big Ten was one he thought hard about. In the end, he went with an opportunity to play right away at Concordia, a school his brother already attends and he had gotten to know really well throughout the years.
“It was really tempting,” Whiting said. “Once they first talked to me, I was really excited and almost had my mind set on going there. But Division I football takes up a lot of your time. You don’t have time to do much else. You don’t have the kind of freedom that there is with Division III football, and that was one of the biggest things for me. I would have loved to play football for the Gophers. I just wasn’t ready for my whole life to be football. I have a lot of other passions that I want to pursue.”
Whiting had no idea that his quarterback would be joining him at Concordia when he made his decision. Erickson was not even sure he wanted to play football at the college level, but the fun he had leading the Cardinals to a 9-2 record last fall alleviated any of those doubts. He is committed to playing both football and baseball next season for the Cobbers.
“It just kind of worked out that way,” he said of joining Whiting at Concordia. “Until last season, I didn’t even plan on playing football in college. My passion kind of grew after last year and how much fun I had. Mark, he didn’t have his junior year. Had he had that, he probably could have gone anywhere he wanted, but he ended up going where his brother was.”
Now the two have an opportunity to add to what was quite a combination in Alexandria. That’s the goal – to keep improving. They already have a pretty good head start.
“We kind of have a connection,” Whiting said. “We kind of have an idea of what each other likes to do. I like that, and I would like to see that continue.”