Erik Westerberg put up some staggering statistics for the Augustana College football team this fall and those earned him the CCIW Defensive Player of the Year honor.|
They also helped him meet a preseason goal he set form himself.
"I always try to achieve the next big goal I set for myself and play to the highest standard,'' said Westerberg. "I met one of my goals to be the conference's defensive player of the year.''
But the Viking junior standout linebacker -- a repeat pick to the all-conference first team -- wasn't about to take full credit for the prestigious honor that helped Augie to a 5-5 mark, 4-2 in the CCIW.
"I was very humbled,'' said Westerberg of becoming Augie's first CCIW Defensive Player of the Year since cornerback Tom Anthony in 2005. "I put in a lot of individual work over the summer and in the offseason, but I wouldn't have gotten the award were it not for my teammates in front of me and the coaches who coached me up throughout the season.''
Westerberg gave kudos for his accomplishments to defensive linemen Carl Hartweg, Sean McIntyre, Pete Schimeck and Shane Holl, along with fellow linebacker J.D. Draminski. McIntyre and Draminski, a Kewanee Wethersfield prep, were second-team All-CCIW selections.
"I played with a bunch of great individuals; the best I've played with so far in my college career,'' said Westerberg. "It was an honor to play with those guys. They made me better.''
Westerberg was the CCIW's leading tackler for the second year in a row and finished the season with a team-high 118 total tackles (66 solo and 52 assisted). He ranked 14th in the nation in both solo and total stops. His 14 tackles for loss also led the Vikings, while his four sacks were tied for second on the team.
It was no fluke that the former Elmhurst York prep put up numbers like that and was a "huge'' part of the defense, according to Coach Rob Cushman.
"The system is set up to have that guy make plays,'' said Cushman of Westerberg's linebacking spot. "That's the scheme we run, but you have to have a guy who can do it and he certainly can. ... The defense is centered around that guy, however, that guy better be a player or you're in real trouble. He's everything we ask for there.''
Even when teams tried to run away from Westerberg, he was still a major part of the defense's second layer with Draminski, who was Augie's second leading tackler. Draminski finished with 64 total stops, of which 44 were solos – second on the team to Westerberg. He recorded 5½ tackles for loss, two sacks, a pair of pass break-ups and two blocked kicks. He had one interception and one forced fumble as well, finishing 10th in the CCIW with an average of 7.1 per game in league play.
Cushman realizes Westerberg's value to the team.
"He was a force everybody was aware of and tried to find ways to block him and take care of him and in most cases they weren't effective,'' said Cushman. "He's a good player. He's smart, he's physical, he's intuitive. He has all the qualities you want – great leader, great player. This honor is really well deserved and I'm proud of him.''