Missing End of Final Season at Ohio State Was “Very, Very Hard” for Tommy Eichenberg: “You Just Feel Like You Let A Lot of People Down”

By Dan Hope on February 28, 2024 at 1:13 pm
Tommy Eichenberg

Tommy Eichenberg might have already been at the NFL Scouting Combine a year ago if Ohio State had beaten Michigan or won the College Football Playoff in 2022.

Asked Wednesday why he chose to return to Ohio State for his fifth-year senior season rather than enter the 2023 NFL draft, Eichenberg said the biggest reason why he stayed at OSU was because he didn’t want to end his career on back-to-back losses to Michigan and Georgia.

“Those last two games last year hurt. It really did hurt losing. And I never really told anyone that, but I felt like I couldn't leave after those last two games,” Eichenberg said during his NFL Combine interview session. “I wanted to right some wrongs, and obviously my roommates were coming back too, so I just wanted to win, really.”

Unfortunately for Eichenberg, his actual final season at Ohio State ended similarly. The Buckeyes suffered their third straight loss to Michigan in their regular-season finale, then finished the year with a 14-3 loss to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl.

Making matters worse, Eichenberg was only able to play in one of Ohio State’s final four games after dislocating his elbow in the fourth quarter of the Buckeyes’ first game of November against Rutgers.

It wasn’t easy for the two-time Ohio State captain to come to terms with how his Ohio State career ended.

“It was very, very hard for me,” Eichenberg said. “You just feel like you let a lot of people down, really. That was something that I had to deal with.”

Eichenberg’s injury forced him to miss both of his final two home games as a Buckeye. Watching Ohio State’s Senior Day game against Minnesota from the sidelines was a particularly tough pill to swallow. Ryan Day said after that game that “it was almost a fistfight” when he told Eichenberg he wouldn’t allow the linebacker to play in that game, and Eichenberg confirmed Wednesday that he was upset with Day at the time. In hindsight, though, he’s glad his coach was looking out for him.

“I just wanted to be out there. I hated sitting. I hated missing games. I hated, you know, I was a captain. I didn't want the guys to see me not playing, not practicing. So that was very tough,” Eichenberg said. “But I thank Coach Day because I literally, I was not, I couldn't play.”

“It was very, very hard for me. You just feel like you let a lot of people down.”– Tommy Eichenberg on the end of his Ohio State career

Despite being just three weeks removed from dislocating his elbow, Eichenberg returned to action against Michigan.

“I didn't even think twice about it,” Eichenberg said. “I came back to play this game, so I’m playing, and that’s how it went.”

While Eichenberg was on the field for all 60 of Ohio State’s defensive plays in The Game, it was evident during that game that he wasn’t at his best as he missed multiple tackles. Eichenberg didn’t want to use the injury as an excuse for his performance, though.

“I just know I definitely could have played a lot better,” Eichenberg said. “I felt like I let down so many people, really. Especially being a captain, too. You know, that's the standard is winning that game. It was very hard for me. But you gotta keep moving forward.”

Eichenberg did not play in the Cotton Bowl while continuing to recover from his injury. But Eichenberg said his elbow is fully healthy now and that he plans to participate in a full workout at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday.

A projected third- or fourth-round pick, Eichenberg said he’s enjoyed the NFL draft process so far as he’s gotten the opportunity to meet with teams and talk to them about the sport he loves. He says the biggest things he wants to show teams during his workout on Thursday are his abilities to move in space and play in pass coverage.

NFL scouts should see plenty to like about Eichenberg when they watch his film from Ohio State, given that Eichenberg was one of the best linebackers in the country for the past two seasons, earning Big Ten Linebacker of the Year honors in 2023. But he says he’d trade all of his individual accomplishments from his Ohio State career for the Buckeyes to beat Michigan and make a postseason run this past season.

“When I think back on the things that I accomplished, I would have traded any of them just to beat up north and win Big Ten and keep going on,” Eichenberg said. “I would have traded in everything just to get those. I never really think about things that I accomplished. I always think about my teammates and the games that I thought that we should have won.”

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