Football or soccer? Erdmann has some explaining to do for Malaysian students

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August 29, 2019

By Mike Killeen

Jackson Erdmann

Editor’s Note: This feature story on Jackson Erdmann is the sixth and final feature story that will appear this summer on the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University website featuring students or graduates who received awards from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

There might be just a tad of a language barrier when Jackson Erdmann says “football” to his Malaysian students.

You see, football in Malaysia is what Americans call soccer. And, in a sport in which midfielders and strikers dominate the offensive attack, saying he’s the quarterback of the Saint John’s University football team might draw some blank stares.

“I’m going to have to specify American football or something like that,” Erdmann said, smiling.

He’ll have a chance to do that starting in January. Erdmann, thanks to an award from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, will be an English Teaching Assistant in Malaysia starting in January 2020.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program places recent college graduates as English Teaching Assistants in schools and universities overseas. The ETAs improve international students’ English abilities and knowledge of the U.S., while enhancing their own language skills and knowledge of the host country. ETAs may also pursue individual study/research plans in addition to their teaching responsibilities.

Since 2013, 35 students or graduates from CSB and SJU have earned Fulbright ETA awards.

Erdmann will have two weapons at his disposal to describe the game he plays quite well for the Johnnies. He plans to bring an American football with him, and show his students clips of a game from his iPhone “just so they have an idea of what’s going on.”

So, when Erdmann tells them to do a down-and-out, they’ll do a down-and-out.

“Actually, the last couple of years, I could see myself teaching and teaching English as a foreign language,” Erdmann said.

“It was actually after I went on a mission trip to Thailand where I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to do this.’ It was life-changing for me.”

That trip, in January 2018, saw Erdmann work with three different organizations that fought child sex-trafficking in the country.

“It really moved me,” Erdmann said. “I want to fight for those who are trafficked into this. I thought about it, and I just can’t solely do that. I need a career to sustain me over there.

“It was like, ‘Well, what do I love?’ I love kids, and I like teaching. I did some research … and then Fulbright popped up. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, Fulbright would be incredible.’ They are very well known, so I’m going to apply for that and see where the path takes me,” Erdmann said.

Why Malaysia? Erdmann has immersed himself in different cultures, travelling to the Caribbean, Latin America and Southeast Asia on mission and volunteer trips. Plus, he wanted a Fulbright program that started after the Johnnies’ 2019 football season concludes.

“Malaysia jumped out at me for a couple of different reasons,” he said. “I love diversity in different cultures, and Malaysia is predominantly Islamic. Just being immersed in different cultures and lifestyles is really fascinating to me.

“I really like southeast Asia. I want to keep my passion growing for different religions, different cultures. That stood out for me,” Erdmann said. “One of the reasons I chose Malaysia is because I’m going to learn and experience so much with a different culture, lifestyles, religions, everything going on, so I’m excited about that.

“And then, just being able to bring in some American culture that I have experienced growing up and just share that with them. I think it will be very, very beneficial for both of us, so I’m very excited for that as well.”

There’s one potential drawback, however. Could professional football beckon Erdmann if he has another great season for SJU?

Erdmann won the 2018 Gagliardi Trophy as the most outstanding football player in NCAA Division III and was named the Offensive Player of the Year. A consensus first-team All-American (AFCA, AP, and the 2018 West Region Offensive Player of the Year, Erdmann led NCAA Division III in three statistical categories: passing efficiency (189.8), passing touchdowns (47) and points responsible for (290). He passed for 3,450 yards as SJU finished 12-1 overall.

As of late July, Erdmann said he was still committed to fulfilling the Fulbright ETA.

“I’m obviously doing a lot of research into both of them (the Fulbright and pro football). I’m talking to my coaches, parents, some teachers, praying about it, all that,” Erdmann said. “There’s a lot going on. There is a definitely a possibility (of pro football), but there are a lot of variables.”

Interested in applying for a Fulbright Award?

CSB and SJU students interested in applying for a Fulbright Award for the 2020-21 academic year should contact Phil Kronebusch, professor of political science and coordinator of competitive fellowships at CSB and SJU, or Lindsey Gutsch, Program Coordinator for Undergraduate Research, Competitive Fellowships and First-Year Experience.