Sports Senior Spotlight: Broncho Quarterback T.J. Eckert
Tanner John Eckert (TJ) is the head quarterback for UCO Broncho Football. This is his fourth year on the team. Photo by David Terry, the Vista.
Senior quarterback T.J. Eckert is preparing for another stellar year as the Bronchos begin practice for the upcoming 2016 season.
I sat down with Eckert to get a feel on how he and the team are preparing for the season. We also discussed personal question and his plans for after football and graduation.
Q: How is last season’s great end impacting you and the team coming into this season?
A: I think it helps a lot. Going into the offseason with a win always helps. We came on a five game winning streak; seven of our last eight I think it was at the end. The year before we finished 8-4 when we lost in the bowl game against Sioux Falls in Kansas City. That gave us a bad taste in our mouths going into the offseason. So yeah we have momentum coming in from last season but we’re not going to be too complacent though. We don’t want that to be the end of our limits.
Q: How is the team’s chemistry this year?
A: Good. Really good. As you know we are in fall camp right now, so it’s wall-to-wall football like Coach Bobeck says. It’s tough, but it gives us a chance to bond with the new guys we get coming in and I get a chance to also meet back up with the older guys. We were all at UCO working out during the summer anyway so we were together and now back into the fall we are around each other 24/7 pretty much. So it is good. We have a good mix of guys now and we are excited about it.
Q: What are some of your goals this upcoming season?
A: I’m not a huge personal goal person. It’s hard to have a personal goal because in the end I just want to win. That’s something I talked about with Chas (Stallard) the other quarterback, because he was the starter for a year and started the first half of the season last year. We are both like at the end of the day we just want to win. We don’t care who starts and who plays. The main goal is to win games and hopefully win a National Championship.
Q: Who do you believe will be the toughest game this season?
A: Honestly all the games are tough in our conference. There’s not a week that you can take off. It’s the toughest conference in the nation for Division II. But obviously Northwest Missouri are the defending National Champions, so that’ll be a tough one. Which we play them at home. And I guess that is one goal that we have is winning at home. We have a pyramid to success and one of the steps in that pyramid is going 6-0 at home. Most of our big games are at home this year and if you go 6-0 in those games you will have a good chance to make the playoffs and get to the National Championship.
Q: What’s a pregame ritual that you might have?
A: Right before we go out to the field I will wash my hands. It’s something I’ve done since high school. That’s it, nothing too big maybe listening to music. If we have a home game, we will watch some of the college football games in the locker room.
Q: Who’s the funniest coach?
A: Coach Martin is funny. He’s the offensive coordinator. Coach Bobeck is a really funny dude too.
Q: Who’s the toughest coach?
A: Bobeck is very strict. It’s not that he is just strict, he just wants things exact. He focuses on little details. And obviously Coach Smelser who is the strength coach. He expects certain things in the weight room. If guys aren’t treating the weight room right, he will get on to you. But like i said Bobeck is one of the funnier guys on the staff and Smelser is a great guy too.
Q: Other than yourself name another teammate who you think will shine this year?
A: I’ll focus on Jake Gandara. Just because he comes out two years ago with a great season rushing over 1,000 yards, then he tears his ACL in the first game of last season. But he has respond to it well. He is a high character guy and all he did in the offseason is work. He was a big leader even when he was injured and in the offseason worked harder than anybody else. He’s back to full speed now and it’s going to be exciting to see.
Q: Everyone knows you as “T.J.”,but what is your full name?
A: Tanner John Eckert.
Q: Where are you from?
A: Bixby. Which is south of Tulsa.
Q: So you went to Bixby High School?
A: Yes, which we were 5A up until my junior year and now it’s 6A.
Q: When did you start playing football or any sport?
A: I started playing t-ball and soccer when I was four or five. I started football in the second grade I believe. I tell people I have been playing football for 15 years pretty much.
Q: What are some hobbies you like to do?
A: I think I really only have one hobby and it’s golf. I am addicted. It’s about all I do. I also like fantasy football when it comes around. Fantasy football and baseball.
Q: Who is your favorite athlete right now?
A: It’s tough because both of my favorite athletes are retired; Peyton Manning and Derek Jeter. It sucks because for years I have been able to say Peyton Manning and Derek Jeter but now I have to figure out a current athlete. If I have to pick a great quarterback to watch I would say Aaron Rodgers is a stud. He is fun to watch. Also Russell Wilson and Drew Breese. I’m really short for a quarterback so I’m able to understand where they are coming from.
Q: Do you have a favorite genre of music?
A: I’m a fan of all of it. I don’t like screamo. That’s probably the only thing I can’t listen to. I can handle rock, country, and rap.
Q: What is your favorite movie or television show?
A: Friends is my favorite show. And I like Friday Night Lights the movie. Couldn’t get into the show. If I had to pick a non-sports film it would probably be the Bourne series.
Q: Do you have a favorite type of food or pre game meal?
A: I’m a big Italian guy. I like eating pasta. And chicken, can’t go wrong with that. I’m a carb guy.
Q: What is your first college memory?
A: I came up to the school before classes started my freshman year for summer workouts. Now the old guys worked out before the new guys. I remember walking in for workouts and I remember seeing the older guys working so hard they were throwing up on the field and almost passing out and I was just thinking this is going to be different from high school. It was like a wake up call.
Q: What is your favorite college memory?
A: Last year for homecoming there was that little pep rally we had in front of Hamilton and I spoke to the students at the bon-fire. I thought it was pretty neat. It was a huge crowd out there listening to me speak and I thought that was really cool.
Q: Are you involved in any other things on campus?
A: I’ve worked with Ucentral Media. Doing the sports broadcasting. I did the Broncho Sports Report last spring. Two or three representative from each sport are apart of an organization called S.A.A.C., which stands for Student-Athlete Advisory Committee that I’m in. Also STUMO and FCA are other organizations.
Q: What is your favorite time of the year for sports?
A: Obviously football. But not from a football stand point, my favorite time of the year is around March Madness. Just because you also have the Masters going on around that time. Baseball season is also starting up and normally that ‘s around spring break so getting to just sit back and watch all those sports are pretty fun. The weather is nice so I can play golf. The spring is a really good time of the year.
Q: What is your degree?
A: I actually double majored. Strategic communications is what I originally started with. Then professional media is the one I picked up and probably the one I will end up using.
Q: What are your plans after the season is up and after you graduate?
A: Right now it’s kind of up in the air because I graduate in the spring, so I have one semester left. I’m going to try to walk on to the golf team here at UCO. Which I will still be on a football scholarship, so I won’t have to have any funding. So I will try to walk on in the spring and play as much as I can, because right now I’m scoring right around the mid 70’s, so if I can hang around that or get better, maybe I can see what will happen after the spring golf season. Maybe I could try to play in some qualifiers, but we will see how it goes. But the most realistic goal is trying to get a job in broadcasting. I interned at News 9 this summer. Which was a cool opportunity to get to know the media guys in our market.
— Dean Blevins (@DeanBlevins) July 27, 2016
Eckert and the Bronchos will take the field for the first time this season on Sept. 1 at Lindenwood University and begin their first of six home games on Sept. 8 against Pittsburg State University.