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Erik Vander Goes got a late start playing football. He started playing in the eighth grade for the Edison Chargers, a pop warner team that his dad helped coach.

“[Family] has been huge. They’ve sacrificed a lot to make sure I’m doing the right things academically and athletically. They’ve definitely been a huge [support system] for me and always encouraging me to be the best that I can be,” Vander Goes said.

The Orange County, California, native is now a senior at Lutheran High School and he has a 4.36 cumulative GPA. His junior year, he had a 4.67 GPA and has been the “scholar athlete,” for three years in a row, meaning he has had the highest GPA in his grade for that span. In college, he plans to major in business, economics, law, or political science.

He also helps out in the community as a part of a class he took at Lutheran and he really enjoys helping people less fortunate than himself.

“Besides football, I participate in missions. I go on trips and stuff to help out communities that need it. For example, we go to Appalachia which is really the poorest part of the nation. It really does make me feel grateful for what I have and it helps me to see how much God has blessed my life and I’m getting as much out of it as they are. There was a class in school, I chose to take because I wanted the experiences.”

On the football field, the toughest thing Erik Vander Goes had to overcome was his inexperience playing football. He got to high school and started playing with guys who have been playing since age four or five. Attending an FBU football camp in Seattle, Washington helped him grow and shake off the rust due to his inexperience.

“I actually attended an FBU football camp. Once of the coaches invited me to go to Seattle and I ended up going there. Coach Charlie Collins was the man. I had had a rough time at the camp before but he believed in me and gave me personal attention and saw potential in me and at that camp I really shined. That was when I realized I could go places with this.”

Erik Vander Goes is not ranked on any of the major recruiting services and he does not currently have scholarship offers. The six-foot-two, 230 pound, tight end has received the most interest from Harvard, Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth and Brown University in that order in addition to UC Davis, University of San Diego, Stetson and all of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) schools.

He took an official visit to Duke and met with MIT coaches whom he was impressed with as well.

“A lot of these schools have shown genuine interest, it’s just a matter of seeing the first few games of my senior year.”

He believes all of the schools interested in him are great ones and he’s looking for a place where he’ll be able to fit in with the team, help them win as many games as possible and get the best education he can. He also is not sure when he’ll make his commitment decision yet but he did say he will make it when the time is right. See his junior highlight film here.

“I definitely want to see that you are able to pursue excellence both academically and athletically and you don’t have to make a choice between either. Also, [I want to go to a school where] the guys on the team are genuinely good guys, I don’t want to get into trouble while I’m in college.”

He likens his game to former Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez because of the physical playing style he displayed during his NFL career. Vander Goes was used mainly as a blocking tight end last season and he believes it has helped him.

“With the offense we run, it was kind of a role that I assumed. It has definitely helped me because it has put me in a position that a lot of tight ends don’t have to be [in]. A lot of them don’t get the blocking experience so I have a unique skill set that way. I do feel that this year, with a new offensive coordinator that there are going to be more opportunities for me.”

Lutheran head football coach Chuck Petersen believes Vander Goes has come a long way and is a very instinctive type of football player who has made great improvement in the weight room, getting bigger and stronger. That hard work is setting him up for a great senior year.

“He’s being recruited by a lot of high end academic schools in the Ivy League. I think obviously they like that they can get him in school and not have to struggle with that part of it. They like the fact that he’s a big strong kid, especially the lower body and how he does a nice job at the line of scrimmage in the run game.”

When his time at Lutheran High School is all said and done, Erik Vander Goes said he will miss, of course, his coaches and teammates along with the laughter they all share in the locker room. He wants to leave the school with something they can strive for, that you can be a good athlete and excellent student at the same time.

“I just believe he’s an unbelievably accountable kid. What you see is what you get [with him]. He’ll show up every day, put in great work and will be as Erik Van Der Goes can be every snap,” Petersen said.