FB : Community figure: Rockets playmaker Page remains close to home, becomes icon of Toledo team

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Comments Dave Connelly could only turn around and laugh in disbelief of what Eric Page could do on the football field. Page did things Connelly said he had never seen in his life.During his career playing for Connelly at Springfield (Ohio) High School, Page played quarterback and running back on offense, safety on defense, and returned kicks and punts. He was a natural who could do it all.‘He could kick extra points with either foot,’ Connelly said. ‘He could catch with one hand better than anyone on the team. He was just a phenomenal athlete when it came to football.’That natural ability attracted interest from top-tier football programs Ohio State and Michigan. Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel even met with Page at his high school. But Page wasn’t interested in going to a big-time program. Everything he was looking for was already in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio.Page committed to play at Toledo as soon as possible — at the start of his junior year. Page has thrived as a wide receiver for the Rockets using that same athleticism he displayed in high school. Last season, he had 99 catches for 1,105 yards and eight touchdowns, and he earned All-American honors as a kick returner, scoring three touchdowns and averaging about 30 yards per return.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThat success on the field and his popularity in the community has turned Page into a hometown hero. The junior is featured on billboards around the city, and many people who have seen him play since his Pop Warner days still go to watch him on Saturdays.For Page, that support was a big part of his decision to stay home.‘I just wanted to stay in Toledo just because friends and family are close by,’ Page said. ‘If I need some support I can run home quick. I only live 10 minutes away from campus, so it’s not too far. Just being able to play in front of my friends and family is a big thing for me.’Amy Weemes, Page’s mother who works at Springfield High School, has noticed the community has embraced her son. Weemes said Page’s success has inspired the students at the high school and in the community.‘He is an inspiration,’ Weemes said. ‘The kids in the area even, little brothers, little sisters, cousins, nephews, friends, whatever. It gives them hope, I guess, is the best way to explain it because they see that somebody that is just a normal, everyday kid can do it.’From those who remember him playing flag football as a small child at the YMCA to his high school coaches, Weemes said the close-knit Toledo community is behind Page.For Page, it’s still surreal that he has the support of an entire city.‘It’s still crazy to me just having people come up to me,’ Page said. ‘It’s not really hit me yet. It kind of good just to know the things I’ve done have been recognized and that there are little kids that look up to me as a player and a person.’UT head coach Tim Beckman said when he first arrived at Toledo, he made it a priority to recruit players in the area.‘We said when we got here that we were going to recruit this city first and branch out from there,’ Beckman said. ‘We were lucky to get an All-American that’s 10 miles away, so he can definitely relate to the people around and people who know Eric Page for twenty years.’Rockets wide receivers coach Jason Candle said that Page’s attitude and style on the field symbolized the heart of Toledo.‘He kind of embraces that role,’ Candle said, ‘He’s kind of what Toledo is about. It’s a blue-collar city with blue-collar people. This is how he plays on Saturday.’While his grit can be seen on the field, his talent and natural ability is what makes him special as a player. It’s an ability he has developed in his hometown since playing Pop Warner football.The one word that comes to mind when Page’s Pop Warner coach Rick Wisbon thinks of him: vision.Wisbon said when Page played for him, he had a unique ability to see the field.‘Kid had vision,’ Wisbon said. ‘He touches the ball and he just makes plays happen.’Page’s vision has served him well at the collegiate level.When Desmond Marrow takes the practice field every day, he knows taking even one play off against Page can lead to humiliation.‘Sometimes he gets me and sometimes I get him,’ the senior cornerback said. ‘Eric’s so quick, it’s tough to guard Eric at times.’Marrow has to bring his ‘A’ game every practice. There’s no room for error when matching up with Page. One misstep and Page is five steps ahead of his defender.Marrow said Page is the total package. He has soft hands, is short but very quick, and most importantly, Page uses football knowledge to enhance his play.The combination that makes Page so hard to cover in practice also makes him a tough matchup for opponents.This season, Page has 25 receptions for 274 yards and three scores. And he burned Ohio State, a team that expressed interest in him, catching 12 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns.Candle compares his heady play to that of NFL pros Candle has coached in the past, like the Indianapolis Colts receiver Pierre Garcon.Teams might scheme just to stop Page, but that makes little difference.‘He’s so smart,’ Marrow said. ‘He knows that the defensive game plan is to stop him, but yet he still finds holes in the defense.’Weemes knew all along her son Eric was destined for gridiron greatness. She told Connelly her son ‘would be playing in the NFL someday’ when he was just four years old.Connelly laughed at the idea, saying, ‘Amy, you know, you’re crazy.’Now, it doesn’t seem so crazy.‘I kind of ate my words fifteen years later,’ Connelly said.Connelly wouldn’t be shocked at how far Page can go in his football career. After watching Page up close in high school, Connelly knows better than to be surprised by what he does at Toledo. He thinks Page is one of the best players in the country.‘Nothing he does on the college level surprises me,’ Connelly [email protected]center_img Published on September 21, 2011 at 12:00 pmlast_img

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