Joe Gaiter: What does football mean to you?
Eric Liles:Football has always been my way of getting away from all the stress and struggles in my life. It has taught me valuable lessons and taught me how to be the high character guy I am today. Sports in general have always been my way to stay away from all the negatives things in life. Football is my escape from all the violence and troubles and it gives me something to keep faith in. It gives me something to do and kept me away from my bad surroundings. Football is essentially one of the most important things in my life.
Joe Gaiter:Where are you from and how was your childhood?
Eric Liles:I’m originally from Durham North Carolina however; I spent the majority of my childhood in Florida. My parents always tried their best to support our family. As a child I had to grow up fast and figure out a lot of things on my own. We lived in a troubled area where sometimes I couldn’t sleep at night because of the loud gunshots and I feared that our house was going to get robbed. We didn’t have all the extras, we never had cable or anything like that’s but we always had what we needed and I’m blessed for that. I’m glad I had it tough growing up because it made me strong enough to face whatever life has to throw at me.
Joe Gaiter:When did you start playing football?
Eric Liles:I started playing football my sophomore year in high school. I always had a strong desire to play football however my parents didn’t have the extra funds. Our middle school didn’t have football so I had to wait to I got to high school. My freshmen year I didn’t play because I was hanging around the wrong crowd. After the death of one of my best friends I quickly decided I need something to focus my time on.
Joe Gaiter: What is your motivation for playing football?
Eric Liles:My father was murdered when I was a little kid and he is my motivation for playing. He is my angel and when I’m on the field I fell connected to him. I just want to make him proud and reach my full potential. I might not be highly known but my family and friends all support and believe in me and that pushes me beyond my limits.
Joe Gaiter: What will you miss most about playing at Dakota State University?
Eric Liles:I miss playing on Saturday with my team. I built strong relationships with my teammates over the past four years and spent countless hours with them. I miss playing with people who play football for the love of the game. We had a lot of guys playing for very little money or none at all. I miss playing with guys who just truly loved the game of football. It takes a lot to play football for $250 and that’s what some of my teammates did.
Joe Gaiter:How has the Dakota State University changed your life?
Eric Liles: Dakota State opened my eyes to new things. The schooling I received changed my life. Education is so valuable and is something nobody can take away from you. It taught me how to be independent and function on my own.
Joe Gaiter:Has it been hard showing your talents to the world coming from a small school?
Eric Liles:Yes! It’s frustrating at times trying to gain exposure and prove to the world that you can compete with the best. Getting invites to the bigger all-star game seems impossible for small school guys. I didn’t play in front of thousands of fans it was more like a hundred. You have to be patient and self motivated and throw all the numbers out the window. I realize it’s a rarity to find a legit NFL caliber player from the NAIA level but I believe I’m the exception.
Joe Gaiter:When did you know that football was what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?
Eric Liles:My freshmen year in college I started every game as true freshmen and was third in the nation in tackles per game. I fell in love with all the preparation and training we had to do. I felt like if I worked hard and used the gifts God blessed me with I could play football for a living.
Joe Gaiter:Are you prepared enough to be in being in the NFL?
Eric Liles: Yes, I am fully prepared both physically and mentally. I have been training for 10 weeks 6 days a week 5 hours a day. I’m confident in my abilities and have the strong work ethic it takes to make it. I knew I would have to fund this whole process myself and pay for everything out of my own pocket. Even though school and football takes the majority of my time, I still had to work to save up for expenses. I installed appliances after class and football and worked at Pizza Hut at nights. Also I’m a student of the game and I know defensive schemes.
Joe Gaiter:Do you have a backup plan if you don’t get drafted? I will go back to school and finish up my master’s degree.
Joe Gaiter:What player in the NFL has your style of play?
Eric Liles:When asked this question I always say Brandon Spikes because of his explosiveness and instincts. I have been watching Lavonte David a lot lately and I think we resemble because he plays sideline to sideline and is a contributor in the pass game.
Joe Gaiter What are your biggest strengths on the field?
Eric Liles:My instincts and nose for the ball. I’m a sure tackler and I delver the wood when I meet ball carriers. I’m a big physical guy who can move and make tackles in the open field. Understanding different schemes and being the field general is another strength of mine. Being a leader on and off the field is something I take pride in as well.
Joe Gaiter What are the keys to play your position on the field?
Eric Liles: Reacting and being able to make reads and then finish once you get there is important. Being quick and having good hips and footwork is essential. You cant be a linebacker if you aren’t an excellent tackler.
Joe Gaiter How do you plan on giving back to the community after you get drafted?
Eric Liles: I will speak to the youth and motivate them. Also I will provide a place for troubled youth to go to stay out of trouble.
Joe Gaiter How would your friends describe you off the field?
Eric Liles: My friends cant believe how nice of a guy I am off the field because I’m so fierce and intense on the field. They would say I’m a man of the Lord and a laid back guy.
Joe Gaiter:When is your pro-day and combine and how are you preparing?
Eric Liles: My pro-day date is not released yet but is suppose to be sometime in March. I have a NFL regional combine all set and ready to go in Atlanta on March 17th and the BSN Showcase on March 8-10th.
Joe Gaiter:Do you think your hard work will pay off?
Eric Liles: Yes, I believe in my abilities and myself and as long as I keep faith things will workout.
Joe Gaiter:What do you want your football legacy to be?
Eric Liles: I want to be the small school guy who made it despite all the struggles and beat all odds.
Joe Gaiter:Final Words?
Eric Liles:Special S/O to all the small school guys out here working hard that are under the radar. Keep chasing your dreams and stay hungry. Coming from a small school made me who I am today. It gave me that hunger and will to make it despite what anybody may say or think. Small school guys have mutual respect for each other because we know how hard it is. We don’t have all the bell and whistle but at the end of the day football is football.