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Senior Eric Kordenbrock struggled at the start of his VMI career, but he values the lessons he learned.
Chuck Steenburgh | VMI
Senior quarterback Eric Kordenbrock has thrown for 6,142 career yards at VMI, a school record.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
LEXINGTON — Rewind the clock back to mid-August of 2010.
Eric Kordenbrock had been on post at VMI for roughly two weeks, getting his baptism of fire in the school’s notorious rat line and running his first practice reps with the football team.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound quarterback from Gibsonia, Pa., was far from happy.
“Oh, it was awful,” Kordenbrock recalled. “The day after [freshman] matriculation, I went up to my dad on the practice field and I said: ‘Get me out of here!’
“I could barely say it, I could barely say it. I wanted to cry because I hated this place. I wanted to be gone.”
Bob Kordenbrock would have none of such talk.
“My dad looked at me and laughed, then looked at my mom and said: ‘All right, Nancy, let’s go, let’s leave.’ ”
The elder Kordenbrock meant it was time for the parents to leave. Eric remained on the post.
“I called them after practice and said, ‘Where did you go?’ And he goes, ‘You signed for a year and you’re going to be there a year, and after a year we can talk.’ ”
End of conversation.
Exhibiting skills that coach Sparky Woods needed in his switch to a pro-style offense, Kordenbrock impressed enough to earn the starting QB job by midseason. Still, there was trouble brewing for the freshman across the street in the classroom.
“Everything had kind of gone my way my whole life … I was one of those lucky ones,” Kordenbrock said. “So I came here and my grades were not all that great and I was kind of like, ‘Oh, it will work itself out, whatever, it will be fine.’ “… I get my grades back and they were terrible!” Kordenbrock said. “I only passed a couple classes the first semester. I got my report card and I looked at it and I was like: ‘What?’ I made a couple F’s, I won’t lie. I had never made an F in my life!
“That’s the biggest adjustment when you come here because you have to deal with the rat line and football and maintain your grades.”
Kordenbrock was smart enough to start hammering the books as hard as he did the playbook.
“That was really the moment where I kind of grew up as a person because I realized that it’s not just going to happen for you,” he said. “That’s one thing that football also has taught me. Over there on the hill, it’s taught me more in the real world. I’ve always had it with sports because I love sports. In the second semester, I turned it around and I’ve moved forward.”
Nearing the halfway mark of his senior season, Kordenbrock finds himself on pace to set many of VMI’s career passing records. He already holds the mark for attempts (940) and completions (507), and needs only 225 yards to supplant Dave Brown (1985-88) as the Keydets’ all-time passing yards leader.
The big guy from the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh has become one of the all-time favorite players for Woods, who has been in the college coaching game for 39 years.
“I tell you why I love Eric Kordenbrock,” Woods said. “He’s never asked for anything special. He’s all about team. He’s never once come in here and said, ‘Man, we’ve got to protect, you ought to call a better play, coach.’ I really think he’s a talented player. I think he could play at just about anywhere I’ve coached.”
Not only does Kordenbrock play, he woos and entertains, too. Woods said his QB recruits “harder than anybody we’ve got.”
“He’s been a great ambassador to our school,” Woods said. “He never has a weekend — and he’s got a pretty cute girlfriend that comes up here — but he says, ‘OK,’ and takes a recruit and the three of them will go somewhere.”
Kordenbrock cherishes the role because he’s all about the team and the school.
“That’s the same thing as being in the weight room all the time or watching all that film, you don’t have a good team without getting good recruits,” said
Kordenbrock, who remains optimistic that VMI (1-3) can reverse course and avoid a sixth straight losing season under Woods.
“Coach Woods says we need to get our recruits, keep our recruits and develop our recruits so that we have players,” Kordenbrock said. “And that’s how you make a team.
“He tells us to be honest with them because we don’t need them to come here and realize that everything was a lie and then leave. That’s a waste of money, that’s a waste of their time and that’s not going to help our team.”
The quarterback has spent so much time with his head coach and position coach that he says Woods is like “an uncle.”
“I’m sure he’s not perfect,” Woods said. “But he’s a great kid and his parents did a great job. You’d like to have him as your neighbor, he would watch your house.”
Despite the early freshman season slip in the classroom, Kordenbrock will graduate in May with a major in economics and business.
“I don’t know where I would be without this place,” Kordenbrock said. “I thought to myself that if I just get through this military thing it would be worth it in the end.
“A degree from VMI is not like the rest of the nation. It means something. It’s a really good degree that I can go and apply and get a job right out of school.
“When they read ‘VMI’ on the resume, they go, ‘OK, we’re going to look a little bit closer here.’ ”
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