Without a doubt, there are countless ways to describe exactly what it takes to be a genuine “leader.” Some might say a leader is the one that is most driven, other’s may say that a leader is simply the person standing at the front of the line.
For University of Nebraska at Omaha basketball player Kyler Erickson, being a leader requires much more than merely standing in the front of the pack; it’s about going above and beyond—and taking the whole team with you.
Erickson grew up in Omaha and attended Millard South High School (MSHS) and Northwest Missouri State before becoming a Maverick.
“I love Omaha,” Erickson said, “I believe this university is going places—I believe in what they stand for.”
Erickson is double majoring in Business Management and Entrepreneurship. He graduates in May.
As one of the two captains on the team, Erickson preaches hard work and effort—leading by example.
“As long as I give my everything, that’s what’s most important to me,” Erickson said. “So when I look back at these days, I won’t have any regrets or wish I had done more.”
For Erickson, it isn’t about winning the game.
“If I can get the team to give everything they’ve got, then at the end of the day I can sleep well at night.”
Erickson also stresses the importance of time management for athletes struggling to maintain their grades.
“I think it’s challenging to miss so much school for games—it takes a toll on your school work.” Erickson said, “It’s so easy to say you’ll do it tomorrow, but making a plan and actually doing it is so important.”
Aside from basketball and academics, Erickson is also involved in the Student Athlete Advising Committee (SAC) and attends bible study weekly.
In his free time, Erickson can be found at the movie theater on Tuesday nights with the team, sharing his basketball knowledge with his three-year-old nephew, or simply enjoying quality time with his family.
Erickson has found a way to effortlessly balance his athletic and academic career, while still maintaining a social life.
However, life hasn’t always been this simple for Erickson. Amidst Erickson’s senior year of high school, tragedy struck.
On Jan. 5, 2011, a MSHS student entered the school and opened fire at the school, resulting in two fatalities.
Erickson was in the building when the shooting occurred and was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following the incident.
Erickson stared out into Baxter Arena’s empty stadium before practice as we chatted—the faint sound of fellow basketball players’ shoes squeaking on the court were in hearing distance; the “new” smell of the arena still present in the air.
“This has made me realize how precious life is and how messed up this world can be,” Erickson said, “And how I can do my best to make it better.”
Since then, Erickson has devoted much of his time to speaking to students at middle schools and
high schools about his experience and the importance of mental health.
“I’d like to someday be a full-time speaker and go around to different schools to talk about my story and mental health.” Erickson said, “Hopefully I can change some lives.”
For Erickson, life has proven that it can knock you down—but, as this athlete has demonstrated, the rule of thumb for the game is to always get back up.