Eric Fairs retired from the NFL in 1992 when he found out that his wife, Charlet, was pregnant with their daughter, Erin.
After her father played in the NFL for seven seasons, six with Houston, Eric Fairs said he wanted to be there for his family more.
Both of Erin’s parents played sports at the collegiate level, her mother, college basketball, and her father, both basketball and football for Memphis. They didn’t hesitate to introduce Erin and her younger brother, Evan, to sports at a young age.
“When we were younger, we ran track,” Erin said. “That wasn’t our favorite thing to do, but it always kept us in shape and it was hard work. They always had us mentally engaged and in shape.”
Erin began track and basketball at 5 years old and stuck with both sports throughout school. In the seventh grade, Erin began playing volleyball in an attempt to try something new.
“I had done track and basketball all of my life,” Erin said. “I liked the sport, I liked that it was inside. I just fell in love with (volleyball) when I started playing competitively.”
Her parents weren’t familiar with volleyball, but they supported Erin’s decision to commit to the sport.
They went to all of her club and high school games. In his time off from building houses, Erin’s father would help her improve her game, even though he knew little about the sport.
“He always tried to teach me different techniques for ways to jump higher and be stronger,” Erin said.
The basketball- and football-centric Fairs even put up a volleyball net in the backyard so the whole family could play.
“In my backyard, we put up a volleyball net and my mom and dad would always try to help me jump higher and help me get better,” Erin said.
Even though Erin was passionate about volleyball, her parents expected her to pursue either track or basketball in college.
“They didn’t care what I did, but they were thinking (volleyball) was the last thing I would go to college for,” Erin said.
When it came time to choose a college to play for, Erin was desperate to go to a school that had warmer weather than her hometown, Houston.
“I didn’t want to stay in Texas,” Erin said. “I wanted to go somewhere else for four years. I don’t like the cold at all, with a passion. When it came down to where I wanted to go, it was to stay in Texas, or go to Florida or California. I visited some schools and I ended up falling in love with USF.”
Erin flourished in her first year at USF. As a result, Erin won the Big East Freshman of the Year award.
Erin continued to push herself to new heights.
After spending a season getting accustomed to her new coach and teammates, Erin earned the inaugural AAC Player of the Year award as a sophomore.
Despite how much time she spends in the gym trying to better her game, Erin never expected to be the conference player of the year at such a young age.
“I was a sophomore, so it was really shocking to me,” Erin said. “There were girls older than me that I thought would get it. It ended up being me and that was a shock and I feel that I can do even better, so I’m excited.”
Coach Courtney Draper attributed much of Erin’s success to her work ethic, a result of which is her ability to consistently lead the team in kills, which Draper said is a product of changing her shot variety.
“She’s been having less hard-hit kills; she’s been working on her off-speed shot to have more of a variety,” Draper said.
Erin has averaged a team-leading 3.33 kills per set over her three years with the Bulls. None of her teammates average even two kills per set.
Draper said Erin put her dedication to volleyball on display this summer. Instead of enjoying her time off, the junior outside hitter stayed on campus throughout the summer and worked with the strength coach regularly to get a head start on the competition.
“This summer, a lot of our kids were just here for Summer B, but she was here all summer to make sure she held herself accountable and worked with our strength coach,” Draper said. “A lot of kids go home and take a little time off.”
Putting in extra work is only one of the ways that Erin sets an example for her younger teammates.
But Draper said that Erin is becoming a leader who demands more out of her teammates because of her drive to win.
“I think she’s really trying to hold everyone accountable,” Draper said. “She sees her career going quickly. She blinks her eyes and she’s a junior. She’s really hungry for the team to do well, so she gets on her teammates.”
Even though she is far away from the family’s home in Houston, Erin’s parents still make sure that she maintains a good work ethic, when they can.
“They’re on top of me and my brother, even now,” Erin said. “If I’m home for breaks, we have a weight room in the garage and of course I go to work out by myself, but they’re always telling me to, as well.”
Erin only sees her parents when she has matches against AAC opponents Houston, SMU and Tulsa or when her mother comes to visit.
But no matter how busy her father is with building homes or molding her brother’s athletic career, he still sends her a text before every game.
“I still get those texts before games: ‘Leave it all on the court. Good luck,’” Erin said.
Erin said her work ethic comes natural to her because of the way she was raised and it’s something she couldn’t imagine living without.
“I feel like it’s kind of natural now,” Erin said. “I can tell I’ve gotten it from my parents, but it’s kind of how I am now. It’s something I want to pass on to my kids.”