Most high school football players look at halftime as a reprieve. They catch their breath and strategize for the second half. For Eric Lier, a senior at Auburn High School, halftime is just another showcase.
Memorizing a football playbook and a marching band’s halftime program would seem like a tall task for any student, but for Lier, that is a typical Friday night. When his teammates hit the locker room at intermission, he jogs across the field to join his Auburn High bandmates.
After leading the unit onto the field at the 50-yard line, Lier performs what he considers his trickiest task.
“Definitely getting up on the podium,” says the drum major. “I’ve got all these pads on and then my cleats make it tough to climb the steps.”
From his perch above Memorial Field, Lier conducts the first two songs of the band’s halftime show. From there he descends to field level and directs the band in their final two songs, closing with a rendition of the theme from “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
As a junior last season, Lier remained on the field after completing his kick-coverage duties, to play trumpet during the show, but stepped into a leadership position this year.
“It has all sort of come naturally for me,” said Lier on being a figurehead for the organization. “We had no upperclassmen when I was a sophomore, so I had to become a leader early on.”
It has all been a labor of love for him. The opportunity to perform two of his passions on a weekly basis. Lier’s first love was playing trumpet, which he’s been doing since fifth grade. You can tell in how he describes his first experience with the instrument that it was truly love at first sight.
But what is a boy to do when another love comes calling? As a freshman at Auburn, Lier decided to try his hand at football as well. Four years later, he might as well make Memorial Field his second home.
When the band program made the move to create a halftime show prior to last season, Eric was put in a tough situation. He contemplated choosing one over the other last year, but ultimately couldn’t give either up.
The result has been a huge victory for all parties. Lier gets to put on a show both musically and athletically each weekend, while the band gets the exposure of having such a dynamically visible leader. Even the school and football team display to the community how diverse their student body’s interests are.
That is what impressed Auburn’s Athletic Director William Garneau so much. “It is great what Eric is doing. It shows a lot about how our student-athletes stay involved with as many things as possible.”
The Rocket’s band director, Virginia Bailey mirrored Garneau’s statement. “It is nice for both fans and students to see how our kids are involved with multiple interests at school.”
Lier’s involvement has also helped Bailey grow her band’s numbers exponentially over the past two years.
“Eric being out there, in his pads and uniform, definitely gives us some street-cred with the student body,” said Bailey.
Though there was no precedent for anything like this taking place, it all works by virtue of the relationships of those involved. Bailey was nervous at first. With Lier being her first-chair trumpet, losing him would have been devastating for the band’s sound.
However, Lier calmed her in saying “just have someone bring an extra trumpet out, and I’ll be waiting.”
There he was, and from then on things have gone on without a hitch.
This was all prior to the 2011 Division 3 Superbowl title-winning season the Auburn Rockets had. Now, on another long win-streak, Memorial Field has become one of the best places in the state to experience a football game. Lier, at the forefront of that experience, has emerged as a special talent both on the field and the podium.
The life-long Auburn resident entered the school as a shy freshman from all accounts. He quickly adapted to his surroundings and his infectious charisma won over students and faculty alike. Bailey couldn’t think of a better student to take over the drum major position in just their second year of creating a halftime show.
“When he decided to go for the position, There wasn’t a doubt in my mind he would be a great leader,” said Bailey. “I knew he’d be able to win over the student body.”
It is a position Lier has embraced fully, and everyone from his bandmates to his football teammates, to random fans have come to admire.
“I’ve definitely gotten a lot of positive feedback,” said Lier. “Everyone seems to think it is really cool and they’re wondering; ‘how can you do that?’”
While Lier will most likely have to hang up his football cleats following the Rockets 2012 season, he hopes to continue with the other half of his exciting fall life. Eric is hoping to attend Westfield State University next year.
“I made sure that everywhere I looked had a program,” said Lier about his future plans. “I don’t ever want to give up on music.”
A band’s goal is to obviously become a vital part of the sports experience for players and fans alike. However, Lier has been able to take that to another level. He has inserted himself right into the middle of the symbiotic relationship that is music and sport.
A place like Auburn High, where the Rockets are one of the highest profile football teams in Massachusetts, is a prime location for statements to be made.
But, does all this mean anything more than a high school kid enjoying himself?
Lier has a small sense of what he is doing in a larger scheme of setting tones as a role model. “I think it means everything to be able to accomplish this,” said the busy teenager, just before he had to hop back into the Auburn High band room.
There are two shows this weekend for him to get back to work on. And while the football team keeps winning, one of its key players keeps up with two of his greatest passions.