On a gloomy day for Ball State football, there was at least one bright spot.
After acting primarily as a blocking tight end over the past two seasons, junior Jon Eckert was called upon Saturday against Northern Illinois to catch the ball and move the Cardinals down the field.
Eckert answered in the way of catching six balls for a total of 80 yards on day. Both numbers are new career highs for Eckert.
"Eckert played great. He was getting open and I was trying to get him the ball," Ball State quarterback Talmadge Hill said of his teammates performance against the Huskies.
Prior to Saturday, Eckert had caught five passes on the season and had 62 receiving yards. In his single game performance against Northern Illinois, Eckert more than doubled his numbers in both of those categories for the entire season.
Throughout the game, the 6-foot-4-inch, 242 lb. Eckert was able to use his size to an advantage over the Huskies' smaller defensive backs.
"He's a big body," Hill said. "If we get him one on one with those safeties, then that's a good matchup."
Junior tailback Marcus Merriweather, who Eckert has blocked during back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons, also commented on his teammates' big day.
"John played great. All you have to do is get him the ball and he is going to at least make one guy miss, run a guy over, something," Merriweather said.
Eckert's biggest gain on the day, also on the season, came in the third quarter when he caught a 34-yard pass from Hill over the middle. Three plays later in that drive, Hill hooked up with Eckert again for a 17-yard completion that took the Cardinals down to the Northern Illinois 1-yard line and set up a Merriweather touchdown run on the next play.
The football field is not the only place where Eckert excels at Ball State.
Recently, Eckert, along with teammate Travis Barclay, was named to the Verizon Academic All-District V Football Team. Student-athletes selected for this honor by the College Sports Information Directors of America are placed on the ballot for Academic All-America, which will be announced Dec. 10.
Eckert owns a 3.99 GPA as an accounting major at Ball State.