It sounds like some sort of cool dating app, and to college football scouts, it kinda is.
The acronym, which stands for Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness, is a formula used by college athletic programs in order to figure out which players they should court. Known as the “SAT for high school athletes”, players from all over the country are put to the test, doing drills like the 40-yard dash, power ball toss and a vertical jump, and in the end they get a score that is supposed to give a good idea of overall athleticism.
Paso Robles senior running back Christian Erickson was put through the SPARQ test this off season at the Nike+ Football The Opening Rating Day Los Angeles event held at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium in Long Beach this February.
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His numbers were off the charts.
Out of more than 1,600 athletes, his SPARQ score of 102.57 finished in the Top 5.
Measuring 5-foot-11 and around 220 pounds, Erickson ran a 4.75 40-yard dash, a 4.52 shuttle run and logged a 31.6 inch vertical leap. He can also squat 505 pounds and bench press 375 pounds.
The numbers only reaffirm what anyone who has watched Erickson play already knows. Erickson has been running over defenders and racking up yards like crazy since he burst onto the scene his sophomore year. In two seasons, he has rushed for more than 3,100 yards and 29 touchdowns and averaged 165 yards per game.
In the final game of Paso Robles’ 2015 season, Erickson put the team on his back — carrying the ball 38 times for 320 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-34 playoff loss to Lompoc.
“It was tough, but I just wanted to win,” Erickson said last week. “I will do anything to win.”
Erickson will bring his freakish athleticism to the defensive side of the ball this season to do just that — turn around a program that finished with a 5-6 record last season.
“I played defense a lot when I was younger,” Erickson said. “Before I got into high school, that’s pretty much all I did. It took a while, but then it’s just like riding a bike.”
“It’s a lot more fun hitting people than getting hit.”
Erickson will bolster a defense that struggled against top teams in 2015. In six losses, Paso Robles gave up an average of 37.5 points.
“With him on defense, it adds another force,” senior linebacker Mark Armstrong said. “It pretty much shuts off half the field. If someone sees him over there, they are not really going to want to run towards his side and they are forced to run back to the other 10 of us.”
Paso Robles head coach Rich Schimke, who has used players on boths sides of the ball more frequently in recent years, said there’s a good chance Erickson will play more defense than offense in 2016.
“When you have a dynamo like Christian — there’s only 10 games not 162 season like baseball — we gotta get him out there and utilize his talents as much as possible,” Schimke said.
Erickson will be used all over the field on defense, filling a kind of hybrid safety/linebacker role made popular by NFL stars like the Denver Broncos’ Von Miller and Pittsburgh Steelers’ Troy Polamalu.
“We are having a hard time blocking him in practice,” Schimke said.
Erickson will still get his yards on offense and will be needed to take the pressure off first-year starting quarterback Steven Schouten. But Schimke doesn’t want every game to be like the last game against Lompoc.
“You can hand the ball off to Christian 40 times, it wins games, but at the same time if there are other guys out there that can make plays, and Stevie can make plays,” Schimke said. “We are going to make the defense be honest.”
Schouten was the backup quarterback for Justin Davis last season as a junior and led Paso Robles in receiving yards and touchdowns (676 yards, 7 TD) last season.
“Having Stevie it’s really nice because, say everyone is covered, he can just pull it down and run,” Erickson said. “That’s something that we haven’t had in the past couple years,so that adds a whole new layer to our offense.”
Erickson’s presence on defense also adds a new, scary layer for opposing offenses.
His SPARQ scores paired with his gaudy stats have already generated buzz and drawn interest from the San Jose State and Fresno State football programs. And they likely won’t be the last Division 1 programs to court The Beast of North County.