By: Tyler Sadler
Making it to the big leagues is a dream for many athletes, but for one former Rush Henrietta High school football player, that dream may become a reality.
Eric Black was recently invited to work out with the Army football team at their pro day. It’s a way to showcase their talents one last time with all eyes on them. As a Stony Brook graduate, the ability to participate on a bigger platform was big for Black.
“Training there was able to help me understand what it takes to make the NFL or any professional league,” Black said. “I was able to learn what type of workouts I should be doing and understand what a NFL player’s off-season typically looks like.”
Black graduated from Rush Henrietta High School and ended up walking on to play defensive end for the University of Buffalo Bulls. He redshirted his first season in 2017 and only played in one game his redshirt freshman season in 2018. In 2019, Black appeared in 11 games during his redshirt sophomore season which allowed him to cement himself as a rotational piece on the Bulls defense.
In Black’s redshirt junior season he started to become a pivotal role not only on the Bull’s defense, but on the Bulls roster as a whole. Black started seven games and recorded three sacks and a forced fumble his junior year.
Black’s biggest play of the season came in the team’s most important game. He recorded two sacks on the final drive, one being the game winning sack in the Camellia Bowl on Christmas day to give Buffalo a bowl win over Marshall.
Going into his redshirt senior season it was looking like Black was set to be the full time starter. That didn’t end up being the case because he was benched halfway through the season as his defensive line coach fell out of favor of him.
This didn’t sit well with Black because he wanted to play as much as possible and he wasn’t allowed to do that. Black only recorded two and a half sacks on the season and 17 tackles.
Black has had to overcome adversity his whole football career ever since walking on at UB or being benched due to coach’s decisions.
“It’s actually helped a lot because I’m used to being an underdog. Even coming out of high school I had zero full scholarship offers,” Black said. “I’m used to working from the bottom up and doing a little extra to get what I’m working towards.”
Carlye Ratliff has been dating Black for six years. She’s seen his highest of highs and his lowest of lows in his football life.
“Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes he has very good days and other times he’s very hard on himself,” Ratliff said. “His last year at Buffalo wasn’t the best due to the bad coaching holding him back.”
Being in his life for so long Ratliff has also been able to see Black not only grow as a football player, but as a person too.
“It’s been really great to watch him turn into the person he is. It’s strengthened him as a person. I think through all the good and the bad it’s gotten him to where he is and pushed him harder,” Ratliff said.
Looking for a change of scenery Black was looking to leave the University of Buffalo (UB) and ended up choosing Stony Brook as his new school.
“I chose Stony Brook because I really liked the coaching staff, the football opportunities there, and the overall culture of the school,” Black said. I also had an opportunity to get my MBA in just one year so that was a big plus as well.”
Due to the pandemic all college athletes were granted one year of extra eligibility and Black took advantage of this. Black was able to transfer to Stony Brook University where he had a career year in his final year of eligibility.
Black started every game and was able to record seven tackles for loss, five sacks, and one forced fumble.
Black goes the extra mile to get prepared mentally and physically to get in game shape.
“My intellect is a strength for me. I am able to study film and take logical steps when it comes to approaching my work. On the field, I think my speed and overall motor are also strengths of mine. I like to move fast on the field and keep moving as fast as possible,” Black said.
Ratliff has seen what he’s had to put his body through to get into game shape. Athletes are expected to be a certain weight depending on the position they play, and this is no different for Black.
“He’s been eating around at least 5000 calories a day. He doesn’t put anything bad in his body. He has dedicated days to working certain things. He’ll go lift, run and do drills,” Ratliff said.
This is a once in a lifetime experience for any athlete that has the privilege to go through the draft process and have a shot to play in a professional sports league. Black is taking it one day at a time and enjoying the process as much as he can.
“It’s been a lot of hard work but it’s been fun. It’s a cool process because you’re learning how to approach things as a professional, as you’re no longer a college student,” Black said. “For me, I’ve had a great group of trainers and other players I trained with, so that made the process better because they all really pushed me to be great.”
With the NFL draft right around the corner, the hometown kid Eric Black hopes to receive the call that he’s dreamt of his whole life.