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‘No excuses:’ Liam Eichenberg reflects on mentorship, camaraderie that led him to path of success

| Friday, November 22, 2019

Irish head coach Brian Kelly was noticeably pleased with his team’s performance in their 32-point victory over the Naval Academy, especially his senior offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg.

“Liam Eichenberg is playing lights out right now,” Kelly said about Eichenberg’s performance. “That’s only making him a better player for next year.”

But Eichenberg’s passions didn’t develop from a long history of football growing up, as it does for so many others. For him, childhood was all about grabbing rebounds and shooting hoops.

Anna Mason | The Observer
Irish senior offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg blocks a defender during Notre Dame’s 35-20 win over Virginia on Sep. 28 at Notre Dame Stadium.

“When I was younger I actually didn’t play football, I played basketball,” Eichenberg said. “I was kind of the tall kid in my grade school, so I played basketball up until freshman year. I was on AAU teams, played CYO, travel teams and stuff like that, and sixth grade I started playing football.”

As he got older, he started putting on weight, eventually growing into his current 6’6” 300+ pound frame. This made all the difference in determining his athletic path.

“I was always the tallest kid, but I wasn’t always the biggest kid I guess you could say,” Eichenberg said. “My freshman year I weighed 185 pounds, I was like 6’3”, and then my sophomore year I put on 65 pounds so I weighed like 250 my sophomore year — and then I just started playing varsity as a sophomore and that was kind of my goal.”

Football made sense for Eichenberg, not only because of his size but also because of the prestige of the illustrious football program at his high school. The St. Ignatius Wildcats have won 11 state titles under the helm of head coach Chuck Kyle, whom Eichenberg said was an excellent mentor for him growing up.

Overall, Kyle has amassed an overall record of 353-90-1 since the start of the 1983 season.

“I went to a really good high school … a lot of good football players come out of there, it’s a powerhouse in Cleveland,” Eichenberg said.

Early-on in high school, Eichenberg immediately began receiving looks from collegiate football coaches, and hometown powerhouse Ohio State was the first to call. Thankfully, the big man from Cleveland decided a change in scenery was needed.

“I got recruited by Ohio State when I was a freshman, my sophomore summer before playing varsity I got offered to OSU and then kind of just kept going, and then Notre Dame offered me and I committed here as a junior I want to say,” Eichenberg said. “[Former offensive line coach] Harry Hiestand was here — he’s now with the [Chicago] Bears — so he was a big role in that, but I couldn’t pass up Notre Dame. I mean there’s nothing better than here.”

Hiestand has 37 years of coaching experience under his belt, including seven at the professional level. Moreover, the 2017 offensive line unit for Notre Dame, which was during Eichenberg’s freshman year, won the Jim Moore award given to the top offensive line unit in the nation.

While “Eich” has had numerous mentors over the years in terms of football, he attributes much of his success off the field as a man to his family.

When asked who his biggest role models were, Eichenberg didn’t hesitate.

“Definitely my father and my grandfather, I would say those are the two people I look up to the most,” he said. “You know, just from athletics and just how to be a man, teaching me what’s right and wrong, how to respect people, all of that.”

Notre Dame mandates random roommate selection freshman year, which Eichenberg noted is a requirement for which he will forever be grateful.

“Coming here, a lot of people talk about how you’re going to make so many new connections and stuff, and I think one of the best things that ever happened to me was being in a random dorm with random roommates,” Eichenberg said. “As a junior I lived with my normal roommates, I lived with the football guys, but I made a lot of close friends through [random rooming] and it’s definitely allowed me to meet and reach out to a lot more people. I think Notre Dame does a really good job with that.”

Unsurprisingly, however, most of Eichenberg’s time is spent with the rest of the offensive line, who have developed into one very big, happy family.

“We pretty much do everything together,” Eichenberg said. “It’s been like that since I was recruited in high school. They call us ‘The Herd’ because we’re always walking around together. … It’s pretty much the whole line, they’re all close friends to me, we’re all brothers.”

As a freshman, Eichenberg spectated from the sidelines as the likes of NFL first-round draft picks Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson battled with opposing defensive lines. The Cleveland native believes that year was incredibly informative for him as a football player.

“One of the nice things about coming here and having Mike and then Quenton Nelson, it’s just like having two extra coaches at practice,” Eichenberg said. “The coaches have to focus on getting those starting five ready but a lot of people don’t understand that those starting five normally coach the guys who are behind them and it kind of trickles down.

“[Mike] was great, and he helped me out a ton. I couldn’t thank him enough, especially with where I am now in my career. I mean him, [former Irish lineman] Alex Bars, that whole starting line, Sam Mustipher, all of them. They’re all coaches and they’re all great guys. They helped us get to where we are, and not just me but everyone. We were very fortunate to have them.”

Looking ahead, Irish fans have much to rejoice in the fact that this won’t be Eichenberg’s final season in blue and gold.

“As of right now I’m more than likely going to come back for a fifth year,” he said. “I really don’t see that changing at all. Obviously I’d like to pursue football, but if not, I would like to go into something in business. I had an internship for Ferrara Candy over the summer; it was great up in Chicago, but definitely something in regards to business.”

If there’s one thing Eichenberg has taken away over the past four years at Notre Dame, it is to always stay on top of things and get them done as soon as possible.

“I think this school has made me realize, there’s a lot of things … I would say not procrastinating, and doing what I need to do at the earliest possible time,” Eichenberg said. “Not waiting, doing my job, I have to take care of what I have to do, and there’s no excuses. You can’t take a day off; for the rest of my life and even when I’m at home with my mom she says just relax and I can’t because I’m always doing stuff, so it’s definitely something different.”

One thing is for certain, the future looks quite bright for Liam Eichenberg.

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