Favorite athlete: Walter Payton
Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports: Wrestling on the varsity team with my two older brothers
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: My youth football coach got frustrated and said, “Fine, you guys call the plays.” After four plays, we scored a touchdown.
Music on mobile device: Rap
Future plans: To study Plastics and Polymer Engineering in college
Words to live by: “Don’t go through life, grow through life.” – Eric Butterworth
One goal before turning 30: Earn a Bachelor’s degree
One thing people don’t know about me: I like to kayak
By Mary Jane Souder
Surprises are rare for a North Penn football team that consistently attains a high level of success, but Erik Laughlin would definitely fall into the category of surprise performer for a Knights’ squad that will be playing Coatesville for the District One 6A title on Friday.
Laughlin was the leader in tackles entering the Knights’ district quarterfinal game against Neshaminy with 60 solo tackles and 42 assisted tackles. He earned second team All-SOL Continental honors.
Impressive by any standard, especially for a player who spent his sophomore and junior years playing jayvee.
“I didn’t even think he’d start for us going into the year,” coach Dick Beck said.
That’s not to say the veteran coach wasn’t expecting good things out of the senior linebacker. He was, but no one could have imagined such a gigantic leap by Laughlin.
“We always thought he was a smart enough kid, and we thought he could be the guy,” Beck said. “He played our strong safety position. He was playing well, but with the emergence of Evan Spann, we could move Shamar Edwards to our strong safety, which is a little more natural for him.
“We bumped Erik as an inside linebacker to give us a little more athleticism inside. He’s just been great. Every game he has six, seven, eight tackles. Whether he’s keeping contain or making a play inside or an interception or a fumble recovery, caused fumble or sack – what a surprise and what a great kid he’s been for us.”
Laughlin is a rare three-sport athlete and has been a contributor to both the varsity wrestling and lacrosse teams as well, but football is his undeniable passion.
“It’s always been my favorite – just playing it and watching it are so much fun,” he said. “I like how it’s very team-oriented. I’ve been playing it for so long, and it’s just so much fun.”
The senior standout not only surprised his coach but also himself during a breakout season.
“I had to fight for a spot,” he said. “I think it was mostly all the workouts. I went really hard in the weight room in the offseason, and I think that helped a lot because I was really a light linebacker.”
Last year, Laughlin weighed in at 150 but this year he’s closer to 170. As for his ability to bring opponents down, Laughlin has a ready explanation.
“I think wrestling helps my tackling so much, so tackling isn’t really a problem for me,” he said.
Some might have been discouraged playing jayvee as a junior. Laughlin never looked at it that way.
“I just find it fun, honestly,” he said. “I always find the fun in things. I enjoy being out on the field.”
Everything was going Laughlin’s way this fall. Until the Knights’ district quarterfinal game against Neshaminy.
“We were warming up the quarterback,” Laughlin recalled. “We were running deep, and I went to jump and catch the ball. I caught it, and when I came down, I guess my knee twisted or something.
“I didn’t really feel it, but I heard a slight pop. Right away they said, ‘Something is catching your meniscus. It’s up to you if you want to play.’ I was like, ‘I’ll play if I can,’ so we threw on tape and a brace. I was warming up, and it felt fine. Right before I went out on the field, it popped back. I couldn’t walk the rest of the night.”
The doctor’s initial prognosis is a torn meniscus.
“He thinks I’ll need surgery, which would mean six months rehab, and I’d miss wrestling and a little bit of lacrosse,” he said. “It’s six months if he repairs it and only one month if he trims it, so there’s a possibility I will be able to wrestle.”
An MRI will determine a more definitive prognosis, and in the meantime, Laughlin watches his team from the sidelines.
“It’s rough, but I like to look at it – at least I got hurt doing something I love,” he said.
Laughlin has been playing football for almost as long as he can remember, starting with the Cannoneers when he was six and later moving on to the North Penn Squires. He began wrestling and playing lacrosse around the same time, following in the footsteps of older brothers Jake and Will (he also has a younger brother Quinton). If playing three sports wasn’t enough, Laughlin spent his summers competing with the swim team.
Even though he gravitated to football, Laughlin – who gave up summer swimming two years ago to focus on football - enjoyed all three sports.
“Usually people give them all up and focus on one sport, but doing it all my life, that just felt weird to do,” he said.
Competing in three sports does present its share of challenges.
“My sophomore year, I didn’t play varsity football, but they asked me to stay up during the playoffs,” Laughlin said. “I said no because I wanted to train for wrestling.
“Last year I stayed for playoffs, which was fun, but right after playoffs, I had to go into wrestling after the weekend, and I was behind.”
Laughlin is a four-year varsity wrestler and last year finished first in his weight class in the SOL Tournament, third in districts and qualified for regionals.
“Erik was a great wrestler for us,” coach Rob Shettsline said. “He always works hard all year, he puts in the extra time, he always does the right thing, and he was always there for us. We can count on him 100 percent of the time.
“He’s a good guy to be around, easygoing. I’ve coached his brothers in the sport. It’s a great family. He’s just a fabulous kid with wonderful parents.”
Laughlin was also a mainstay in the midfield for the lacrosse team and will be a three-year varsity letter winner.
“Erik is a three-sport varsity athlete here at North Penn who works extremely hard and is very disciplined, which is why he is so successful in his sports,” coach Rick Smith said. “Every day Erik puts forth 110% effort and it absolutely shows.”
When Laughlin went down with an injury this fall, the football team not only lost an inside linebacker but a versatile contributor on special teams.
“He played on every single special team – kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt returns, you name it,” Beck said. “He’s our back-up holder for extra points. When Nate Brown got hurt, he held for extra points.
“We’ve been playing him on offense. He had a big pass reception on play action against Ridley in our first playoff game. We call him our Swiss army knife. He can play many positions defensively, and offensively, he can play running back, fullback, tight end, wing back. He can play all the positions.”
Laughlin has not ruled out the possibility of continuing his football career at the collegiate level if the opportunity presents itself.
“It would be hard to walk away from football,” he said. “I’ve been doing it since I was six.”
He is planning to pursue a plastics and polymer engineering major and is considering Penn College of Technology where he would continue his wrestling career.
According to Beck, Laughlin is a player who would be a welcome addition to any squad.
“He’s very unassuming and he’s always got a smile on his face,” the Knights’ coach said. “He never says anything – he makes a big play and just jogs off the field.
“He’s about as even keel and a flat liner as you’re ever going to get. He’s just really an A-plus kid, and what a year he’s had for us.”