First Posted: 4/22/2009
COLUMBIA, S.C. For the last month, Hutch Eckerson has had tunnel vision.
The 6-foot-6, 295-pound Lumberton native started the 2008 season at left tackle for the South Carolina football team.
During the season, however, he lost the starting nod and was relegated to special teams and reserve work.
Since the end of the season, the 2006 Lumberton High graduates focus has solely been on getting a starting job back.
“It was hard and the coaches are making those decisions and you can’t really ask them why,” Eckerson said. “It was tough at times, but I knew that I was going to get a second chance. That’s why I’ve been working hard this off-season and in the weight room. I’m just trying to show them that I’m the right man for the job.”
He might not have been the right man on the left side, but through spring practice Eckerson has established himself as a mainstay at right tackle.
“I’ve been starting at right tackle the whole spring, so you know I’ve been working hard and making sure I know my plays,” he said. “I’ve been holding down the right side pretty well this spring.”
A big part of Eckerson’s improvement has come off the field.
“I’m just getting more focused and just you know realizing my full potential,” he said. “A big part for me has been getting my priorities straight with the workouts and just growing up. I’m getting older and I’ve been here for three years now. It’s time for me to step up and play.”
A redshirt junior, Eckerson wants to put on weight to help him sustain blocks against the Southeastern Conference’s top pass rushers.
“We just switched strength coaches and they’ve put a lot of pressure on everybody to get stronger and stuff,” he said. “After all of these workouts and summer conditioning, I think I’ll get to be where I need to be a solid 300 pounds. That’s a good playing weight 300 pounds is what I want to get to.”
The Gamecocks open the 2009 season at North Carolina State on Sept. 3 a team Eckerson is familiar with.
“N.C. State recruited me and both my parents went there,” Eckerson said. “My dad (Todd Eckerson) played football there.”
Eckerson said he grew up going to N.C. State games and believed he would one day play for the Wolfpack.
But, a visit to South Carolina and head coach Steve Spurrier changed his mind.
“When I started getting recruited by these other schools, I kind of just wanted to get out of the mold,” he said. “If I went to N.C. State i felt like I wouldn’t break out of it. South Carolina is only about two hours from Lumberton, I could come home if I needed to. It was close but far away at the same time. I just really liked it down here and it was just a better fit for me and I’m really glad that I came here.”
Despite his family’s long-time affiliation with N.C. State, Eckerson knows where their heart is.
“My parents will always be N.C. State supporters,” he said. “That’s their alma mater, but they’re Gamecocks now. I’m 99.9 percent sure of that.”