Friends, family honor Eser as `special person'

Spalding struggles to cope with death of popular athlete

High Schools

October 12, 2000|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Andy Eser was quiet yet loud in the way he lived, a combination that endeared him to many who are now mourning his untimely death.

The 18-year-old Archbishop Spalding senior died early Tuesday morning after a pick-up truck crossed the double-yellow line and hit his car Monday night as he drove home from football practice, police said.

Eser was an outstanding student athlete who battled a learning disability that few knew about, said his father Karl Eser.

A two-way end in football and second team All-County goalie on a championship lacrosse team, Eser was being recruited by all the Ivy League schools as well as schools such as Navy, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and Towson for one or both sports.

"We spent the day [Monday] Andy passed away making game tapes to send to the schools, " said his mom, Linda Eser. "He was so excited about all the letters and phone calls he was getting from coaches because he always did his job even though he didn't get the headlines."

But Andy Eser didn't go unnoticed, on the field or off.

It wasn't uncommon to see the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Eser in his cowboy hat, sunglasses and rolled-up sleeves driving his car with the sounds of Pink Floyd or Bob Seger roaring from CDs.

"I don't think Andy knew how many people he impacted," said Karl Eser. "I believe what sets him apart from many others his age is the depth of his character and commitment."

Eser was driving home to Pasadena, with 17-year old teammate Franco Gentile as his passenger, when Eser's 1978 Mercury Zephyr was struck head-on by a pick-up truck on Magothy Bridge Road around 7 p.m., police said.

Eser was pronounced dead at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center about eight hours later. Gentile was listed in stable condition.

The driver of the 1989 Ford truck, 49-year-old Edward Davis of Pasadena, was treated and released from North Arundel Hospital. No charges have been filed, but the accident is under investigation.

Spalding coaches, parents and friends echoed Karl Eser's feelings. Andy Eser was considered a quiet leader with a solid work ethic on the field and in the classroom, where he carried a 4.1 grade-point average and scored a 1,280 on the SAT.

"He struggled academically but people at school never knew because he did so well," said Karl Eser. "He overcame his problem by working harder and studying longer than others. And he never shied away from AP [advanced placement] classes such as, Calculus and physics."

Linda Eser said Andy "adored his older brother Jonathan" and wanted to follow in his footsteps. Jonathan was a three-sport standout at Chesapeake High and made The Sun's 1998 All-County Academic Athletic team with his 4.33 GPA and 1,450 SAT. He is currently playing lacrosse at Cornell.

Andy was a volunteer counselor and coach for the Special Olympics. He excelled after intense rehabilitation for a torn knee ligament to play football and be the goalie on the school's first MIAA B Conference championship lacrosse team.

After transferring from Mount St. Joseph to Spalding his sophomore year, Eser had 240 saves for the 14-5 Cavs, including 14 in the 10-7 title victory over Annapolis Area Christian School last spring. He earned the team's defensive MVP award.

"The guys called him the Strange Ranger because of the way he dressed and was his own person, but everybody loved him and respected him," said lacrosse coach Walt Blahut, who coached both Esers in Pee Wee lacrosse. "Andy was a hard worker, a special person who the other kids looked up to."

So much so they marched in unison with Andy, as friend Ken Wolfe, whose son James was a teammate last year, recalled.

"The team went on a preseason trip to North Carolina and the parents went along," said Wolfe. "Lo and behold, Andy shows up with dyed blonde hair."

Needless to say, all his teammates dyed their hair.

Football coach Mike Whittles said his team gathered yesterday in the locker room after a chapel service at Spalding "to tell Andy Eser stories and they ended up laughing their butts off, before everything got quiet again."

A viewing will be held Saturday and Sunday from 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at the McCully-Polyniak Funeral Home, Mountain Road in Pasadena.

A funeral service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at Archbishop Spalding. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Andy Eser Memorial Fund at the school (410-969-9105).

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