The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Eikenberry finished the fall with a team-high 96 tackles and three interceptions and rushed for four touchdowns. Combine that with his 4.67 time in the 40-yard dash and 305 max on the bench press and interest from college football teams continued to grow.
O’Brien and Penn State then offered Eikenberry the chance to play for Penn State as a preferred walk-on. When O’Brien left the school to become head coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans, new Nittany Lions coach James Franklin reaffirmed the offer.
“Coach O’Brien was with me from the beginning,” he said. “When the new coach and his staff came, I was worried I could get lost in the shuffle. But coach Franklin called me two days after he was hired and told me they had reviewed my tape and they still wanted me to play for them.”
But Eikenberry was not about to rush into a decision as massive as playing football at a major Division 1-A school, along with giving up a sport he once thought was his best.
“I had to take a step back and review everything,” he said. “It’s hard to not just say ‘yes’ right away to an offer like that. There is so much excitement. But you have to look at it realistically.
“In order to play in a program like that, you have to be obsessed with football. It was overwhelming at first to get a grip on the dedication I would have to put into it. Plus, I had committed to Delaware for lacrosse. It was very difficult. I visited Penn State twice and sat down with the coaching staff. I had to see if they really believed in me.”
Finally, in early March, Eikenberry made his decision. He would suit up for the Nittany Lions.