Real World Competition
By Scott Eddy
Sports are full of clichés, some of which compare an athlete’s competitive drive to the survival instinct of the battlefield. One Bloomsburg football player, redshirt sophomore Eric Schwartz, knows the difference firsthand.
Schwartz began his collegiate football career nearly a decade ago as a Shippensburg University quarterback. “I thought I could just major in football,” he says, “but that’s not the way it is done. I didn’t know what it took to succeed on the field and in the classroom. I didn’t know how to manage my time correctly.”
After academic struggles forced Schwartz out of school, he worked in a pipe-fitting warehouse and for a tree trimming company. But, he says, “I made the determination to get back on track and be the person I knew I could be.”
Swartz’s turnaround began when he followed a route he considered before receiving a football scholarship. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps and spent four years in the service, serving as a lance corporal before promotion to corporal.
In October 2009, he was deployed for nine months in Kunjak, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as an infantry machine gunner. He spent his days in direct combat on top of a truck, responsible for the tactical employment of a heavy machine gun to provide direct fire in support of his unit.
Danger was ever-present for Schwartz and his unit. Twice he escaped injury when he was thrown from his turret after roadside bombs exploded. “During the final parts of the deployment we were getting shot at every day,” he remembers. “Losing people makes you appreciate what you have when you get back. It puts things into perspective.”
Schwartz returned home after a tour of duty in the Mediterranean Sea with an expeditionary unit. With the GI Bill to help with tuition, Schwartz was ready to return to college and give football another shot.
Playing safety for the first time since midget football, Schwartz’s first season included a forced fumble and fumble recovery in a win over Millersville University and his first career interception in a
victory at Lock Haven.
This time around, he recognizes the importance of being a well-balanced student-athlete. Studying exercise science, he is considering a minor in exceptionalities with a career goal of working in special education. Now 27 years old, he has the benefit of hindsight to share some hard-earned wisdom with teammates.
“I tell the guys not to make the mistakes I made,” he says. “I messed up, but I was able to serve my country and that gave me such a perspective not only on football, but life.” •
Scott Eddy is assistant sports information editor.