When Eddie Kasper joined the Riverside Tutorial in 2014 as a 12-year-old third year he rarely, if ever, showed up without a pair of binoculars. He was known for traveling around with a camera that had a lens almost as big as he was tall. Eddie’s passion for birds was so great, it was infectious. In fact, the Kasper brothers are the reason why Riverside still has a Big Month to this day.
And so it is only fitting that his football career is taking off at Illinois State University where the mascot is…the Redbirds.
The now 21-year-old sports management major grew up competitive skiing, not playing football. That he picked up during his junior year of high school–a season cut short due to COVID. He spent his time wisely, however, with his uncle Kevin Kasper, who just happens to be a former NFL player and one of the best all-time receivers at the University of Iowa. The two worked on the nuances of the game and on routes that would work for the relatively small Eddie, who stands at 5’9” and weighs 160lbs.
Despite Eddie’s size, ISU invited him to the team as a preferred walk-on, and in acknowledgement of his hard work and successes, they awarded him a scholarship. Eddie started 10 games this season and posted 50 catches and 448 yards.
Even though his plan to be an ornithologist has changed, Eddie still brings his binoculars with him wherever he goes and his fellow Redbirds may even be learning a thing or two.
How did you get into birding and at what age?
I got into birding around the age of 7. I really don’t know what did it, but it had to do with going to a Waldorf school that always had me outside and I ended up picking up a bird book from Barnes and noble at some point and began slowly taking notice through my second grade year.
Why do you enjoy it so much?
I love the unknown and getting rewarded for discovering the unknown. I get asked this question a lot, and that is generally my best answer for why I particularly like the birds.
What did you like best about Riverside and why?
I was a huge fan of year one of the tutorial; nothing will ever beat those days of exploring Mayslake and the radio shows with my group. Just being around a group of boys who all were excited to be outside and doing the same activities was amazing and changed my education.
What did it mean to you at Riverside to have Peter embrace birding and ultimately incorporating it into the program?
It meant the world to me, people always poked a bit at birding, as one could imagine because it is not every day one runs into a kid who would rather search endlessly for birds than play video games or hang out with friends. He questioned the why at first, as any sane brain would, but then began to see why we loved it and fully embraced taking us on bird walks and just being outside as much as possible. After I left the program due to aging, Mr. Searby informed me he was bringing a format of a “big year” to the program in the form of a “big month”.
When and how did you know birding would continue as a hobby and not a career as an ornithologist?
Well, this is difficult because to this day, I would love to drop everything at some point and be a field biologist working in an ornithology subdivision. Still, with my current situation and what is best for me in the future, I know that the dream would have to take a backseat to my other dream (football) as the latter I would not be able to pursue it forever. Midway through my freshman year of college, I realized that coaching football was where I would be headed, and there was no dragging Edward away from that.
What draws you to football?
The fact that no matter how good you are, someone is better than you at one particular thing or has some advantage. It’s a game that (in my position at least) one has to use their head and use every single part of their game at all times. I am a small receiver, so I have to be quick, extremely smart with contact, and know situational stuff. It is much more detailed overall than just those four, but that is just a little example. It pushes my body and mind in ways no other activity simultaneously while under immense mental pressure.
It seems that your team is also on board with birding. I hear that you’ve taken teammates on excursions. How has this gone?
It’s gone pretty well! I bring my binoculars with me wherever I go, so when we are on the buses and flying, some of my teammates are asking me to use them or asking what I am looking at. Most don’t even bother with laughing anymore because they are just so used to it.