Selflessness in athletics is pretty uncommon. Great athletes want the ball in their hands when the game is on the line, or have visions or desire to be in the statistical hierarchy for their respective sport, but Indian River’s starting quarterback Eric Givans has no such desire. He only wants to win.
The Indians football program lost two all-conference starters (Therman Hagans and D.J. Singleterry) from last year’s team but head coach Jim Bunting has plenty to fill the holes, according to Givans.
“This year we have a lot of running backs,” said Givans. “We have whatever it takes to get yards.”
Indian River’s three-headed fullback rotation will ensure that opposing linebackers are getting battered every play and, to counter the power game, Bunting has two speedy tailbacks to keep the defense on their heels.
“Jim [Gott] is a bulldozer,” said Givans. “Defenses should try to stay away from him because he likes to run people over. Perry [Townsend] has stepped it up running the ball. He isn’t afraid of anyone and he never gets caught in the backfield.
“Veith can make all the cuts,” continued Givans. “He’s going to be the one who breaks them for us, and Matt is a great combination of speed and power. He’s a mix between Gott and Veith — he can run you over or break a long run.”
Indian River’s capable running game will only go as far as their offensive line will take them, which means the sky is the limit, according to Givans.
“I’m not worried at all,” said Givans about his offensive line this year. “I can sit back there all day and not worry about the defense. We have a big line that can move people, but they are smart, too, and can pick up the blitz.”
Givans credits team captain Brian Lynch for leading by example and providing a positive role model for his teammates.
“Everybody looks up to Brian even though they might not say it,” said Givans. “He’s such a great leader and always knows what’s going on. He wants everyone to get better.”
Amongst the Indians monster offensive line, resides one of the smaller linemen in the league, who nonetheless has become one of Givans’ most trusted teammates. Center Zack Mitchell has played with Givans since eighth grade and has all the confidence in his snapper — despite his diminutive size.
“Zack is only 155 pounds, but he has five brothers so he has always had a goal to try to be better,” said Givans. “We’ve developed a great relationship and connection you get when you play together for five years.”
In addition to returning a solid offensive line and a cohort of capable running backs, Givans has back his favorite receiver, Josh Dean.
“Josh is so quick and fast,” said Givans. “I know that I can count on him to make the tough catches.”
Dean reeled in 30 percent of Givans’ passes last year, to total 15 receptions for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
With so much talent returning to him on the offensive side of the ball, Givans had plenty to do to make sure his game was up to par.
Givans loves football, so practicing and improving is something that is something he takes pride in. He’s attended passing camps, organized summer throwing sessions with receivers, tweaked fundamentals and worked tirelessly with quarterback coach Paul Kmetz on his biggest weakness — decisionmaking.
“Sometimes I would take chances when I wouldn’t have to,” said Givans of his Hail Mary passes when there was little chance of completion. “The coaches want me to throw the ball away. I try to pick up something new every week.
“I couldn’t do it without Coach Kmetz, though,” explained Givans. “He knows so much and is able to pick things up on film that I won’t see.”
“Paul [Kmetz] has asked a lot of Eric and he has done everything without question,” said Bunting. “Paul has created a lot of schemes, but Eric has dedicated himself to practicing and I’m confident that we’ve given him all the scenarios that when it happens in the game, he’ll be ready. It takes a special young man to commit himself to something as a 14- or 15-year-old.”
Givans was the quarterback of the junior varsity team his first two years and always had the ability to run a team.
“We [as coaches] always knew it was there,” said Bunting. “He would tell the lineman how to block or tell the backs where to go.
“Last year, with D.J. [Singleterrry], Therman [Hagans] and Josh Long, I think Eric thought he was more of a bit player and it wasn’t his place to take the leadership of the team, but he has earned the respect of his teammates this season,” continued Bunting. “He has that fire in his eye.”
Givans practices his drops and throws routinely and is getting better at reading defenses, which if he can master will be a great help to the tall drink of water.
Being so tall, about 6’3”, Givans can see over the line better than most, despite the carnage that pursues him — that will give him an added advantage when making throws. Bunting is confident in Givans’ arm strength and, unlike other quarterbacks, he doesn’t panic under fire.
“A lot of quarterbacks lock on their number one receiver and if it isn’t open, they panic. Not Eric — he knows to stand in the pocket and look to another receiver,” said Bunting. “He doesn’t show any fear.”
Givans had a 43 percent completion rate and had 13 total touchdowns (eight passing and five rushing) on 814 passing yards and only three interceptions last season. Though he isn’t the greatest or fastest rusher, Givans was able to round out 84 rushing yards and five touchdown runs.
All his hard work hasn’t translated into wins or monster statistics this year, but it has caught the eye of his coaches.
“It’s important for a leader to work hard, and it sets a good example when the other kids see him working in his extra time,” said Kmetz.
Givans clocked in at 8 a.m. this summer to work on mechanics before going into work, and has continued that regimen by arriving early to practice to warm up.
Givans has also had the benefit of a competitive training camp with his fellow sophomore tossers and baseball pitchers in the spring, Trevor Abbott and Nik Kmetz.
“Eric has had the benefit from great internal competition,” said Paul Kmetz. “Good teams are built on competition and, following our scrimmage, we have two teams that could start on varsity.”
Givans also credits his and the team’s progress to the strong sense of camaraderie that has become a flag of honor at Indian River over the past three years.
“Trevor and Nik are great competitors and both throw the ball well,” said Givans. “But when you are able to stay around your teammates all year, we become a family. You get to know them as a person.”
Though Givans had a great season last year, he said he expects to surpass last year’s performance and pitching for their top-10 baseball team last spring may have given him an added boost. Head Baseball Coach Howard Smack inserted Givans into the starting rotation in a non-conference game against Newark. Givans gave up eight runs on nine hits while striking out two against perennial powerhouse Newark, but rebounded in his next two appearances to earn a permanent spot in the rotation next season.
His next start was against Washington High School, of Princess Anne, Md., but the result would be much different in this non-conference game. He struck out 10 batters in an 11-1 victory. Givans would relieve Kmetz against Sussex Central to earn the 12-6 win in dramatic come-from-behind fashion.
“Baseball isn’t really my sport, but it really helped my confidence when I was able to pitch well,” said Givans. “If you don’t have confidence, you don’t have anything.”
Givans has worked hard to get to this point and hopes that his efforts will earn him an opportunity to play in college.
“Hopefully, I can get a scholarship to play football,” said Givans. “My parents want me to stay close so they can watch the games, but I would go anywhere.”
Givan smay be able to just that — play anywhere, according to Paul Kmetz.
“Eric is blessed with size, speed, athleticism, ability and a strong arm, but he is also very strong academically. That’ll open doors to other colleges like Davidson and Carnegie Melon. D.J. [Singleterry] had more options because he did very well academically,” concluded Kmetz.
Givans desperately wants to play football at the next level, but rough-and-tumble sports wasn’t how he grew up.
“I played football in fourth grade and quit to play soccer, and didn’t start football again till I was in seventh grade,” said Givans.
Givans’ father is a retired military man and, growing up on a base, there were plenty of kids to get a game together. “There was always a game going on,” said Givans. “forty on 40.”
It wasn’t until Givans moved to the Indian River School District in seventh grade that he picked back up football.
“I didn’t know anyone, but being an Army kid I was used to it,” said Givans. “Everybody play football, so I tried out for the middle school team.”
Givans played tight end sparingly his seventh grade year, but moved to quarterback the next season and hasn’t looked back since.
He admits that if he wasn’t tossing passes he would want to catch them, which displays his confidence in his playmaking ability, but it is his understanding of the team concept that makes him an invaluable member of the Indian River athletic program.
“This isn’t a one-man team,” explains Givans. “We’re counting on each other.”