SALEM - Ben Eisel has been playing football since he was in the sixth grade. But up until his senior year of high school, he never realized that playing football and representing his hometown on the collegiate level would be a reality.
"It was probably mid-way through my senior year, being as successful as I was," Eisel said. "I had a couple schools call me and come to the school to see me. It was then that I realized I had a chance to go on and play at the college level."
The 2009 graduate of Salem High School committed to play football for the Edinboro Fighting Scots in February during his senior year. At 5'10" and 160-pounds, the talented receiver produced record-setting numbers during his final campaign in a Quaker uniform.
"I wasn't the biggest or strongest guy out there, but I enjoy playing the game a lot," Eisel said. "I do what I can do to win and beat the guy that's across the ball from me, whether it's football, baseball, basketball or track. It's fun competing and I love to do it."
After missing his entire junior season to injury after suffering a sports hernia the previous track season, Eisel helped guide Salem to its' first playoff appearance with a 9-3 record.
"It was a pretty quick recovery," he said. "I had surgery in December and I ran track in the spring so I was back by the end of March. So it was about four months. My junior year not being able to play and my senior year having the success that our team did was huge. I'm really honored to have been a part of that team."
The Quakers entered the playoff world in exciting fashion. After trailing Granville at halftime by three scores, Salem rode a stout defensive performance in the second half to help force overtime.
"It was so big for the school and for the community," he said. "To win the game was amazing. It was one of the craziest games I was a part of in any sport, and to come out on top in our first playoff game was just amazing. We held their running back in check in the second half, and that was our emphasis during our week in practice. Getting a couple scores and then winning in overtime was unreal."
Unfortunately, the post-season would last just one more week for Salem, who was ousted by traditional power in Steubenville Big Red in the ensuing round. Still, the opportunity to take the field after week 10 is something that Eisel won't forget soon.
"Being the team that Steubenville is year in and year out, they are a big football school, and we knew that coming in," he said. "In the first half we hung with them and went into the half with the lead and were on cloud nine at that time. We were really thinking we could do something with that. We came out and beat ourselves in the second half, but it was a great experience to play against them."
After totaling 2,176 all purpose yards and a school record 168 points, Eisel was given one more opportunity to don a helmet adorned with Quaker Sam in the 65th annual Ohio-North South Classic at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
Pitted against some of the best competition in the state of Ohio, Eisel savored the opportunity to go up against Division I prospects.
"There were a lot of D-I recruits that played in that game, and a bunch of them are playing at Big Ten schools and MAC Schools. The guys were crazy D-I prospects," Eisel said. "They were all bigger and stronger than I was. I think I had three or four catches in that game, a couple screens and a couple short yardage routes."
Like most kids in Ohio, Eisel spent his Saturdays cheering on the scarlet and grey. Never did he think he would have the opportunity to step onto the field that had so many legends set foot on.
"I always watched the Buckeyes on Saturdays," he said. "Being selected to go down there and play in that game was awesome and getting to play in the horseshoe was surreal."
The transition to college has come relatively seamless for Eisel. After being red-shirted his freshman year, he appeared in all 11 games for the Fighting Scots in 2011, finishing with four receptions for 28 yards.
"Everyone is just as fast and talented as you are," he said. "Now, you have to work even harder in the weight room, watch more film and get techniques down. Guys are pretty sound and pretty talented so you have to find ways to beat them. Technique and knowing what you're doing is a lot more important than relying on natural ability. "
His sophomore campaign saw him build on the success of the previous year. Eisel hauled in 41 catches, the longest for 57 yards, for a total of 562 yards on the season. He was also on the receiving end of five touchdowns.
Eisel said he benefited from a from a change in regime this past season, as Bryan Volk was ushered in as the Scots' new offensive coordinator. Volk implemented a more pass-happy attack that fit right in with the sophomore receiver.
"This past year our new coordinator came in and we ran a lot of spread, no huddle," Eisel said. "That's the kind of offense I like and a lot of kids on offense like it. It was real nice to have a coordinator come in and want to do that."
With two more seasons left to make his mark, Eisel knows exactly what it will take to make this career as polished as the one he walked away from at Salem High School.
"It's responsibility, besides football, just getting up and getting going in the morning," he said. "With football, you have to go in and watch film and make yourself do it. Coaches only hold certain times to watch film with them but you have to do it on your own too in order to get better. It's not necessarily difficult, but it's time consuming. You have to want to do it and want to get better. It's just a matter of wanting to put the time in and learning and get better."
Eisel also emphasized his excitement for the coming years. Despite a 4-6 record this season, Edinboro has been one of the more successful programs in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. A tradition that Eisel wants to uphold.
"They're a winning team," he said. "The past 10 years they've had winning seasons. In our conference I think there's only been two teams that have had that many consecutive winning seasons. I think we lose one starting offensive lineman and the rest of our offense is back. We lose a couple guys on defense but I think we'll be pretty good."