Eric Lauer approached every game without abandonment.
As a 165-pound middle linebacker, who would go on to be named all-county defensive player of the year at William Penn High School in central Pennsylvania, he had to make up for his limitation.
But something else shaped his style of play and explains why as an adult, his family’s size can change at any minute.
Lauer, Mountain Pointe’s assistant head coach, was given up for adoption at birth. While he was taken in by a stable family, it is hard to shake that feeling of being abandoned at such a young age.
“It changes everything,” he said. “You are out to prove to anyone that you belong. My (birth) mom was white and my dad was black. And that was no-no in small town Pennsylvania in 1971. She was 14.
“My (adopted family) lived check-to-check and had some meals that weren’t by choice, but we made due.”
Lauer is grateful to his adoptive parents as they took him in despite their own struggles and it showed him how much opening your home to those in need can make a difference.
It is why when Lauer came off the field on Friday after the Pride’s blowout win, he was greeted by two toddlers that he and his wife, Terri, brought into their home as foster parents three weeks ago.
“If you have the time, the faith and the love in your heart that you can share, it is something you can do,” Lauer said. “I wondered as a kid why they adopted me. When I matured I realized it was out of love. That’s what rubbed off.”
The two children, 2 1/2 and 1 1/2 years old, came from parents who tested positive for crystal meth. The infant also tested positive because of the residual effects.
The Lauers include son, Trey, and daughter, Ericka, 19, were supposed to be taking a break from being foster parents.
But when Child Protective Services contacted them recently, they knew there was only one thing to do.
Some calls just have to be answered.
“If we hadn’t said yes, they would have stayed at CPS all night and one was going to be placed and the other would stay,” Terri said. “They would have been separated. Even though we were taking a break, they deserve love and it’s not their fault.”
Lauer, 40, and Terri have been married for 20 years and started taking in foster children in 2004. In addition to their own children and the foster children, the family also has custody of 10-year-old DeShawn, who is Terri’s nephew.
“It’s something we’ve always done,” said Trey, a junior who starts on the Pride’s defense. “He was adopted so he wants to give back and help out. In the Bible, it says we need to help out the orphans and widows. He’s doing his part.”
Terri said her children have been tremendous each time a new member changes the family dynamic without any warning. The Lauers waited until their own children were a little older so that they could understand the process.
Still, it’s not always easy to drop everything for someone who isn’t a relative and suddenly change the focus of the family to the new child who needs support and love.
“They have been great,” Terri said. “They give up time we’d normally be giving them. It’s not easy, but they understand how important it is.”
Anyone who saw Ericka, a 2011 Mountain Pointe graduate, play with the two little ones after the win on Friday knows that to be true.
She attended to the young siblings while her mom and dad took care of some postgame duties.
“At first, it is crazy to have the little ones running around but we get used to it,” Ericka said. “We all make sacrifices to make sure they have a positive experience.”
Pride coach Norris Vaughan has been impressed by Lauer since Lauer joined Vaughan’s staff in 2009 after having been head coach at William Penn in 2002 and 2003.
“He is really level-headed,” Vaughan said. “He sees the overall picture a lot of times better than anyone else we have out there. He helps me to look at things in a different way. He is a great human being and helps out the program out tremendously.”
“He is always grounded and always thinking of the kids.”
There is no doubting that.
Whether they are his own kids, foster children staying for unknown amounts of time, a football player, or a student he comes across as the lead security guard at Mountain Pointe, Lauer always gives them a chance to better themsleves.
“I try to have some compassion,” he said. “I have seen a lot of things, things people don’t want to talk about. It doesn’t take much to change the outcome of a bad childhood. All we are really trying to do is give someone a chance. Someone took one on me.”
“It’s all I can do to pay them back.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.