Bond yields high reward

Gilman seniors Barney Ehrmann and Reggie Fugett, both sons of ex-NFL players, have been friends and teammates since childhood.


The bond between Barney Ehrmann and Reggie Fugett began as 5-year-old Gilman first-graders - not long after they heard their names read aloud within seconds of each other during the roll call.

"We were always in the same, all-day homeroom, and in a lot of the same classes over the next few years until we were in like fourth grade," said Fugett, 17, adding that he and Ehrmann often paired off during social events and down time around the kindergarten-through-12th grade, all-boys private school campus.

"All through lower school, we would go to the [varsity] football field, me and Reg, and we'd start these pickup football games where we were always on the same team," said Ehrmann, 17. "We'd play every recess, every day, or on the main field after watching the upper school guys play [varsity football]. Me and Reg would keep switching up and taking turns at playing quarterback. We had this amazing winning streak going. I don't think we lost a game until we were in fifth grade."

That bond still exists. As children of former NFL players and seniors on the Greyhounds' unbeaten, top-ranked football team, the tight end-defensive ends are both under the same pressure and scrutiny.

Fugett, 6 feet 6 and 240 pounds, is the son of Jean Fugett, a former tight end for the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. Ehrmann, 6-5 and 215 pounds, is the son of former Baltimore Colts defensive lineman Joe Ehrmann. The elder Ehrmann is an assistant to Gilman's Biff Poggi.

"People sometimes view us through a different set of eyes than they do other players, like, `Why aren't they doing this?' or `Why aren't they doing that?' We've been enduring those expectations pretty much all of our lives," Reggie Fugett said.

"It's an amazing feeling to be on a team like this one, with so many bonds," Barney Ehrmann said. "But sometimes, with Reggie and me, it seems all eyes are on us."

In a recent 35-7 win over Calvert Hall, for example, each had a sack and a half - they combined on one sack. But Reggie and Barney share a number of other commonalties off the field.

There is Fugett's birthdate of Dec. 9, his 3.0 grade point average and his 1,950 SAT score - all of which compare favorably to Barney's Dec. 29 birthday, his B-average and his SAT of 1,900.

There is the fact that each will return this winter as a center on the Gilman basketball team, which has won the past two Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference titles.

And finally, there is the fact that each was prohibited by his father from playing organized football until he had reached his seventh-grade year.

Their fathers' decisions were based on issues involving injury prevention and the desire to keep their sons from being classified by their parents' accomplishments.

"When I was a kid, I think my identity became the jersey that I wore, and that's not healthy," said Joe Ehrmann, 56, who also has a sophomore son, Joey, playing for Gilman. "I went to high school in Buffalo, N.Y., and our team went undefeated for all four years. It was a small town, a tough, blue collar area. You became what you played, and I never wanted my boys to confine their identities to being just a football player."

Joe Ehrmann, like Jean Fugett, still is ailing from the many bumps and bruises that come with a career as a professional football player. Joe has endured two hip replacement surgeries, can't bend his left foot at the ankle as a result of bone fusion to repair a shattered ankle, and has had "various other bones welded together."

Jean, 53, "had my right shoulder dislocated, and I have back problems as a result of landing flat on AstroTurf," said the Cardinal Gibbons graduate.

Like Joe, who allowed Barney to play soccer, lacrosse, baseball and basketball at 6, Jean steered Reggie toward other sports much earlier than he did football.

Reggie started playing baseball - the sport his father believes to be his best - in fourth grade, followed a year later by basketball.

"I wanted to give Reggie a chance to express his athletic talents in different ways," Jean said. "But I knew it was kind of inevitable that he would want to play football."

And each is doing well at it as part of a team that is after its ninth MIAA A Conference crown. Between them, Barney and Reggie have totaled 68 tackles - 24 of them behind the line of scrimmage. Barney has nine sacks, and Reggie, six.

"You can play them up or down - at linebacker or defensive end," said defensive coordinator Stan White, also a former player for the Baltimore Colts. "They give us a lot of flexibility to do things with our other players."

Barney has committed to play lacrosse at Georgetown University, but is considering walking on to play football. Reggie, though highly recruited as a college defensive end prospect, has drawn accolades for his receiving and blocking skills as a tight end. "Reggie has tremendous potential at the next level," White said.

Both players said they have a desire to prove themselves because of their well-known last names.

"When you hear the comparisons, you just want to dedicate yourself to working and playing harder - turning yourself into a machine and releasing your God-given talent and skills," Reggie said. "You want to make other players wish they could be like you and have the father that you have. You want them to say, `Man, I wish I had those genes.' "

NFL fathers "know when to start them, and that's late," Barney said jokingly. "It really helps me to know that when I do feel pressure, Reggie's right there experiencing the same things that I am."

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