By Ann Cipperly
With head Coach Erik Speakman leading the Opelika High School Bulldog football team, life for his wife Drew and their five children revolves around the football games. Drew, who was a cheerleader when she attended Opelika High School, finds it exciting to be back at the football games with her family.
This year, the first game for the Bulldogs will be held Thursday night, Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. against Callaway High School at Bulldog Stadium.
“I should have known our life was going to revolve around football,” says Drew, “since we met when I was working for the head coach at Auburn University.”
While Drew grew up in Opelika, Erik was born at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. His family moved to Athens where his father went to work at the Redstone Arsenal. Growing up, Erik played “about anything we could play,” and in high school played baseball and football.
After graduating from Athens High School, Erik attended Auburn University. He says he probably should have realized in high school that he wanted to be a football coach. He looks back on notes he still has from high school where he was drawing football plays on the side in the margins. In math classes at Auburn, he was drawing plays.
“I probably should have realized it earlier,” says Coach Erik. “In 1995, I made the decision to change majors and get into coaching. I was majoring in engineering and had done some work at the Redstone Arsenal when I realized that was not what I wanted to do. I changed majors. It was a shock to my Dad who thought I was going to be an engineer like him. My parents are happy with the decision now.”
After graduating from Auburn, Erik worked for three years in the Auburn football program under Coach Terry Bowden. During this time, he met Drew who was working for Coach Bowden while she was an Auburn student. Erik stayed for the first spring with Coach Tommy Tuberville. He then took a coaching position at UMS Wright Prep School in Mobile.
Erik was in Mobile for a year before he and Drew were married in 2000. They moved to Mobile and purchased a house. They had only been married seven days when Coach Spence McCracken called to offer Erik a job at Opelika High School coaching baseball and football. They put the house on the market and moved to Opelika.
Erik was an assistant coach for 18 years before becoming head coach last year. “We have put in a lot of work since last year,” he says, “and we have a lot of great kids and some really good football players this year. Great football players make great coaches. We get too much credit sometimes. It is all about players.
“I am looking forward to these kids playing,” Coach Erik adds. “We start on Thursday this year to open the season, and the other games will be played on Fridays. There are six home games this year. I am looking forward to having a lot of fans at Bulldog Stadium. We only had four home games last year.”
Drew is also excited about the upcoming year and taking the children to the games.
She grew up in her family’s historic home on Fourth Avenue in Opelika. The house was built around 1890. Her father’s grandparents, Elizabeth and Steve Hollingsworth, purchased the house in 1910. Drew has the dining room table and open hutch her great-grandparents purchased for the house. Much of the furniture in their house came from the antique shop her grandparents owned.
Drew and Erik lived in the grandparents’ home where she grew up until two years ago when they moved into a lovely home off Oak Bowery Road.
Drew’s parents are Sue and the late Walter Parrent. Her father, who was president of a bank and chairman of the school board before retiring, was able to see Erik come to Opelika High School as a coach. “I think that was neat for him to be able to see that,” Drew says. “He was so proud of Erik.”
The Speakmans attend First United Methodist Church where Drew is the Children’s Director. She graduated from Auburn with a public relations degree but knew she wanted to be around children. She returned to Auburn and received a master’s degree in education and a teaching certificate through Troy at Phenix City. She taught in the Opelika School System for a couple of years until she started having children. She went to work at the church to allow more time with her children.
“It is a wonderful job and doing what I love,” Drew says, “but having flexibility to have my children with me and being a part of their lives. It is a great balance. ”
Their five children are Bryce, 14; Sara Kate, 12; Hollins, 9; Griffin, 5; and Shep, 3. The children are in five different schools this year, with Shep being with her at First Methodist. The children are also involved in sports. Bryce is the quarterback for ninth grade football team. Sara Kate and Hollins are involved in dance lessons, while both little boys play soccer.
When Drew was growing up, she remembers her mother would serve nice big meals after church on Sundays. She wanted the family to dine together, which is a tradition that Drew and Erik have passed on to their family. While they dine out on special occasions, for the most part with five children they eat at home.
“We treasure the time at home with them,” she says, ”and make the most of it.”
Erik enjoys cooking and grills enough meats on Saturdays to last a few days. He was influenced by his grandmother, who is an excellent cook and would cook for everyone on Sundays. He purchased an inexpensive grill while in college and tested how to cook assorted meats. “ I love to eat,” he says, “so if you love to eat, you may as well learn how to cook.
“I enjoy anything that involves fire and meat,” Erik adds. “One of my favorite television shows is Man, Fire, Food, so anything that involves burning stuff and cooking meat, I enjoy. The kids like eating it, so it pays off.”
If he sees a dish on television that looks good, he will try cooking it. If the children like it, he will continue preparing the dish. When he grills on Saturdays, they have those entrees to keep meal preparation easy for a few days before everything gets busy.
With the Coach’s excellent grilling skills, he was asked to serve as a judge for the Opelika Rotary Club’s Burger Wars.
On long busy days, Drew depends on the Crockpot Chicken and the Beef Tips, which cooks for three hours. She can place it in the oven to cook while she attends activities with the children. The Poppyseed Chicken can be prepared the night before and then baked the next day when they get home.
Friday nights can be a whirlwind for the family, but it is something they enjoy. The entire family goes to the games and are at the stadium by six o’clock. The children see their father for a little while after the game.
“We love every minute of it,” Drew adds. “We can’t wait for football season to start. It will be busy, but I know that and embrace it. The kids think the football games are the best in the world. They have grown up around the football field. They love the players, the stadium, cheerleaders and everything about it.”
Plan to attend and support the Opelika Bulldogs this year with Coach Erik. It is bound to be exciting. Clip the recipes and save them for delicious grilling dishes, and Drew’s tasty dishes to have on hand for Labor Day and during the fall season.
Cipperly can be contacted at email@example.com.
Coach Erik Speakman’s Bourbon Barbecue Chicken
1 cup of favorite barbecue sauce
1 ¼ oz. favorite bourbon
Boneless chicken breasts
Monterey Jack cheese, sliced
Mix 1 cup barbecue sauce with 1.25 oz. of your favorite bourbon.
Grill chicken and during last 5 minutes of cook time, baste chicken with barbecue sauce mixture.
During last couple of minutes on the grill, top with cheese and allow heat to melt cheese.
Coach Erik Speakman’s Grilled Sweet Corn
4 ears sweet corn
Wash corn and pat dry.
Tear off 4 pieces of foil (enough to wrap 1 ear in each piece).
Place corn on foil, spread butter over top of corn. Sprinkle chili powder on butter (to taste) and then pour close to 1 tablespoon of lime juice over corn (more for stronger lime flavor). Wrap corn in foil, leaving area in top to allow steam to build while cooking.
Grill until done. Approximately 25-30 minutes off heat on grill at 350 degrees.
Serve on the cob or cut corn off and serve.
Coach Erik Speakman’s Grilled Pork Tenderloin
2 pork tenderloins
1 cup Dale’s sauce
1 cup Teriyaki sauce
1 cup soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup hot water
Wash tenderloins and pat dry. In 1 gallon storage bag, mix brown sugar and hot water. This helps the sugar dissolve. Now pour in other 3 ingredients and then place pork in the bag.
Marinate for 1-2 hours in refrigerator.
Grill tenderloins until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Allow meat to rest for 10 minutes and then serve by slicing pork. Can also be served on slider buns.
Coach Erik Speakman’s Pulled Pork Sliders with White Barbecue Sauce
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 7-8 hours
2 pork tenderloins
Favorite dry rub
Hickory or pecan wood chunks/chips
Coat tenderloins with honey and then add dry rub.
Grill/smoke tenderloins for 2 hours at 225-250 degrees off heat.
(I smoke them using hickory wood chunks.)
Transfer to slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours until pork pulls apart easily.
Add a little water and apple cider vinegar to slow cooker to help keep pork moist.
(Pork can be wrapped in foil, refrigerated and cooked in slow cooker the next day.)
White Barbecue Sauce:
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Favorite slider buns
Pickle chips (optional)
Pile generous portion of pulled pork on bun and top with white sauce and pickles.
2 lbs. beef tips, cubed and trimmed
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 packet brown gravy
1 packet Lipton onion soup mix
1 small can of mushrooms, drained, optional
Trim fat from beef tips and place on the bottom of a Pyrex dish. Mix mushroom soup, gravy packet, onion soup packet and a little water. Add mushrooms, if desired. Cover and bake at 300 for 3 hours. Serve over rice.
4 boneless chicken breasts
1 envelope Good Seasons Italian seasoning
½ cup water
8 oz. cream cheese
1 can cream of chicken
Place chicken in crockpot. Mix dressing with water and pour over chicken. Cook on low for 6 hours. Add cream cheese and cream of chicken soup about an hour before serving. Serve over rice or pasta.
Medium egg noodles (1/2 bag)
1 lb. browned hamburger meat
1 jar pizza sauce
1 can cheddar cheese soup
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Boil noodles and drain. Mix together pizza sauce, cheddar cheese soup and browned meat. Add boiled noodles to mixtures. Place in 9 x 13 Pyrex dish. Top with mozzarella cheese and put mini pepperonis on top.
Cover and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Sausage and Cheese Crescent Rolls
Two 8 oz. cans crescent rolls (or crescent roll sheets)
1 lb. sausage
8 oz. cream cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Brown sausage and drain. Return to pan and add cream cheese and cook on low until cream cheese is melted and blended with sausage.
Butter bottom of 9 x 13 dish and spread one roll of crescent rolls on bottom of dish. Top with sausage mixture. Sprinkle shredded cheddar on top. Add second roll of crescent rolls on top.
Bake uncovered at 375 for 21-26 minutes or until crescent rolls are golden brown. Cut into squares.
1 stick butter
1 box long grain and wild rice
1 can consommé soup
1 can water
¼ cup white rice
1 can mushrooms, optional
Melt 1 stick butter. Add rice from box and ¼ cup white rice. Add seasoning packet. Add consommé soup and water and drained mushrooms , if desired.
Cover and bake at 350 for 1 hour.
1 graham cracker crust
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 small container regular Cool Whip topping
Strawberry glaze (pkg. found in produce section)
Cut fresh strawberries
Mix softened cream cheese, sugar and cool whip together using a mixer. Spread mixture in graham cracker crust. Top with strawberry glaze. Cut fresh strawberries and place covered top of glaze. Chill.
1 pkg. angel hair slaw
1 pkg. chicken Ramen noodles
½ cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
½ cup slivered almonds
3 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
6 Tbsp. sugar
Mix oil, vinegar, chicken packet from Ramen noodles, sugar, salt and pepper. Toast almonds, ramen noodles (broken apart) and sesame seeds with a few pats of butter at 350 for 10-15 minutes.
Mix all together right before serving.
4 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of cream of chicken soup
8 oz. sour cream
2 sticks butter
2 big rolls Ritz crackers
3 Tbsp. poppyseeds
Melt 1 stick of butter in microwave. Mix soups and sour cream with butter. Place cooked and shredded chicken in the bottom of a Pyrex dish. Spread soup/sour cream mixture over chicken.
Melt second stick of butter in bowl, crush and mix in Ritz crackers and poppyseeds and spread on top of Pyrex dish. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until crackers are golden brown.
Four Layer Chocolate Pie
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup chopped pecans
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup Cool Whip
2 small pkgs. instant chocolate pudding mix
3 ½ cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix first layer and mash into 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Cool. Mix second layer with mixer and spread over first layer.
Beat third layer with mixer until thick and spread over second layer. Spread Cool Whip over top. Refrigerate.