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Eichman all set to be a Wildcat contributor

DURHAM – Former Merrimack High School football standout Joe Eichman had to deal with something last year:

Not playing.

Eichman walked on to the University of New Hampshire football team, but was of course redshirted. So for the first time in awhile, he wasn’t in a competitive situation on the field on game day – just in practice.

“The adjustment was tough at first,” said Eichman, who is now a backup safety and likely a starter on special teams this coming season for the Wildcats. “But I knew my role coming in, and that you just had to work hard and I couldn’t expect playing right away.”

So Eichman set out to make an impression another way.

“The biggest thing (for redshirts) is we give the offense, defense and special teams the best looks that we can,” Eichman said. “We go as hard as we can, just as if we were playing.

“That gives us an opportunity to get on the field, especially with special teams drills. We work really hard on those, that’s our first way to get on the field, that’s how our development goes.”

And Eichman certainly developed. He did get in for two games at the end of the season on special teams.

“That right there in itself was a little reward,” he said, “and shows that what they preach is true. If you just come in and every drill, every rep give the best looks you can, things will come your way eventually.”

“Joey’s developing right now into a pretty good backup for us right now,” UNH coach Sean McDonnell said. “And that’s something to say for a kid who walked on and walked into this program. And as a red-shirted kid.

“I expect him to start on all special teams this year. He’s a good, strong athletic kid who has a good sense for the football. He’s got some natural strength, some natural abilities, and another kid who worked his tail off over the summer. He’s a helluva football player and is doing a good job for us.”

Eichman was the feature back at Merrimack in his senior season of 2017, but he also played defensive back. But now defense and special teams are his only spots, so he has to adjust to that and the college game as well.

It had to be tough shedding an offensive role, as he excelled on that side of the ball in high school, amassing 1,715 all-purpose yards and 16 TDs for the Tomahawks his senior season alone in 2017 (a career 4,735 all purpose yards and 58 TDs).

“I think the transition to this level of football, I like the position I’m at,” he said. “It gives me a chance to be aggressive and use the strength I have. The offensive days are gone, but I’m enjoying our defense, I love our defensive coaches. It’s just a good atmosphere being on the ‘D’.”

Playing strong safety in high school had to help.

“The defensive position I played in high school is very similar to here,” Eichman said. “They’re both strong safeties, a lot of the techniques, Coach Kip (Merrimack head coach Kip Jackson) taught me for the transition here with Coach (UNH assistant John) Bowes and Coach (UNH’s John) Lynons.”

When he first arrived at UNH last summer, Eichman said “It was a huge adjustment, being in the film rooms, it was a lot of stuff to learn. But you had to take it day-by-day.”

Then this spring he saw the difference.

“As the spring came, after I had a whole (season) under my belt, I was able to play faster,” Eichman said. “I understood things better.

“It took a lot of practices, a lot of weeks, but I think right now, my second summer, I’m pretty comfortable where I’m at now.”

The physical aspect of the strong safety position suits the rock solid 6-0, 198-pound Eichman fine.

“Offense was a little different in high school, you had to be more elusive,” he said. “But now (on defense)you can just attack, get off blocks, make tackles. It’s a different game.”

Ironically, Eichman’s younger brother Ben, who was the lead back for Merrimack last fall and also played in the secondary, is learning the same strong safety position as a freshman at Southern Connecticut. So they compare notes.

“We both have the transition,” Eichman said with a grin.

The other transition, from high school to college life, was a little difficult, too. He’s undeclared for his major, but is leaning toward nutrition or psychology.

“The biggest thing was having so many friends on the team,” Eichman said, “something that a normal college student doesn’t have coming in. That was a big thing.”

Thus it’s all been about adjustments for Joe Eichman, but now he’s back where he belongs – on the field.