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Austin Ekeler, Chargers Running Back

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb
The Truth Network Radio
December 28, 2022 3:45 pm

Austin Ekeler, Chargers Running Back

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb

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December 28, 2022 3:45 pm

Austin Ekeler joins Zach to discuss the playoff-bound Chargers season, his front-row seat to Justin Herbert's ascent, and much more.

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So my biggest fear is there's going to be sneaks in the toilet. We're all afraid of that one strange thing. I'm Larry Mullins, the host of a new short 10-minute podcast called Your Weirdest Fears. We unpack where these fears come from. A rat climbed into my toilet.

And learn how to manage them. Listen and subscribe to Your Weirdest Fears on the Odyssey app or wherever you get your podcasts. What's the strangest thing you're afraid of? Tails without fur on them, such as rats or possums. I'm Larry Mullins, host of the podcast Your Weirdest Fears, where we dig into the crazy things you're afraid of. Everything from animal-people hybrids, you know people who get surgeries to look like an animal, to giant statues.

If I ever saw one of those giant statues, I probably would poop my pants. Listen and subscribe on the Odyssey app or wherever you get your podcasts from. Zach Gelb here with you on CBS Sports Radio. The Los Angeles Chargers are off to the playoffs and a big reason why is because of their star running back in Austin Eckler.

He's closing in on 100 catches for the season and is looking to go back to back years with 20 total touchdowns and he joins us right now. Austin, first off, congratulations on making the postseason. We appreciate the time. How you been? Yeah, thanks for having me on, Zach.

I appreciate it. Man, how have I been? Well, it's been up and down. Body is definitely feeling the toll of the season, but we're in the playoffs, so that makes it a little bit better. Yeah, when you hear Chargers are going to the playoffs, what's the first thing that goes through your mind? That's good for the Chargers. That's good for us. Man, look, we got two games left and so I can't jump ahead.

I cannot pass up these games because so much can happen in these games. So much needs to happen for us, especially offensively. We played okay well enough to win the game last week, but we need to be a lot better if we're going to make a run how we want to make it.

I know that you still want to focus on these final two games, but when you look back at this season so far, there were a lot of excuses that could have been built in because of how many guys that you lost throughout the year and are starting to get back. How do you kind of reflect up until this point on what this team's been able to accomplish? Yeah, I think it starts from Coach Staley and his messaging to us as a team and that getting instilled in us as players and really what it comes down to is relationship, competition, and effort. Those are the things that no matter what your role is that you can buy into and I think we have as a team which has allowed us to be able to play at a consistent enough level where even when we've met some of our starters, our highest paid guys on the team, we've been able to still come together and get wins. They haven't always been the cleanest, but it's been a win, right? At the end of the day when we're looking at playoffs, it's how many ticks do you have in the W column? For us, it's really coming down to whoever is out there on the field, we've been practicing enough, we have enough of a game plan put together, everyone's bought in on it, everyone's bought into us as a team, our team dinners, all that.

Let's go out there and see what happens. It feels like just with all the injuries and you even talked about how there were some things you had to clean up on offense that you probably still feel, Austin Eckler, this team hasn't played their best game yet. As a competitor, I'm not sure you ever do. I feel like we're far away from our capacity of level of play, but I don't think you could ever play the perfect game, right? The best game where it was just everything worked for you and I think that's one of the beauties in competition and just in life in general is that you can continue to push towards being more efficient, more consistent and we're definitely searching for that because I know we have a ceiling that's pretty high with our guys that we have back. Keenan and Mike being a big part of that and Corey up front for us and we have a high ceiling and like you said, we haven't been there. I don't think we'll ever be there, but we can get closer and I think we need to get closer if we're going to make the run we want to.

Do you feel like though you guys are getting close to being the team that you guys realistically think you could be this year? Man, it's really a week-to-week type of thing because you could have a game where if you go out and you play, you play well. You play closer to your capacity, but can you do it again is the question, right? And so it's not necessarily a thing where sure you can do it one time and then now you're good.

Now you're going to be able to do it next week because that's not how the NFL works. It's really hard to play at a high level consistently. That's why you don't see a lot of teams that are able to do that. There's usually a few, a handful, usually less than a handful every single year that can do that, but for the most part it's a grind as far as ups and downs and adversities and things like that that teams have to play through and we're right in the middle of that.

Austin Eckler here with us. Justin Herbert has been unbelievable once again ever since he's got into the NFL his first three years. You know, when you're not getting the playoffs though, people then put that all on the quarterback. Just what has Justin showed you this year because he just keeps on getting better and better when I watch him play? Yeah man, even going back to last year, you know, we were, we were, you know, over time fuel goal, you know, kicked miss away from going to the playoffs last year and so, you know, this guy, he's going to give us a chance and, you know, a lot of teams are searching for a quarterback that will be able to do that.

For us, Justin just continues to get better and I think that's mostly because of the experience, right? He has the physical talent that's there. He can get it done, but now it's like, okay, what separates some of these, you know, generational quarterbacks from the others where it's their decision-making, right?

And they're clutch teams, right? How good is this guy under pressure? And he is shown just with his growth mentally and understanding the game.

He finally had, you know, back-to-back, same offense. He's grown within the mental scheme of football and that's made him even better this year. We've seen undrafted guys in this league, as you know, go on to have a lot of success. We've also seen top 10 draft picks that have a lot of success. You just never know until you see them in enough games.

When did you know, going back to your time with Justin, that this guy was the real deal and he was as good as advertised? You know, it's taking time. It's taking time, especially the quarterback position because, sure, you can have a stretch of good games here and there, but it's like we see with some of these other guys that are getting benched now. It's like, well, you know, can you continue to do that? That's what this league comes down to, consistency. The moment you are inefficient and inconsistent, your organization will try to replace you without hesitation. They will try to get you out of there.

And so, what does it come down to? Can you do that? And so, you know, Justin had a solid first year. Say, okay, can you do it again?

That's what I went on. That's the entire organization wants to know. Boom, we come back next year, barely missed the playoffs. All right, okay, this guy's got it. He's got some skills. Let's see if he can. And so, coming into third year, now we're making a playoff run. It's like, okay, this guy's an absolute stud. And, you know, the physical talent's been there, but it's like, can he keep up that level? And he has been.

And so, makes it a lot more exciting to be his back foot buddy back there. I know that you're still focused on the task at hand. You don't want to celebrate too much, but I saw some of the videos that the Chargers did put out with your great social media team. Just what did that moment mean in the locker room to finally know, okay, we got the victory. We are going to the playoffs, and you get to celebrate that briefly in the moment. Yeah, man, like you said, we don't look too far ahead, but you still take time to appreciate what you've done. You know, this is not an easy season. Like, I'm sitting here right now talking to you.

My body is in a lot of pain. And so, there's a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that's got into this. And not saying teams that, you know, haven't made it, haven't done the same thing, but you just appreciate it more. So, we definitely appreciate what we've done for each other up to this point. So, we definitely took a moment to celebrate, you know, getting back to the playoffs for four years.

For me, some of these guys, it's their first time. And so, it's a blessing. And like you said, we do have two more games left.

So, we'll focus on those. But definitely proud of our guys for getting us an opportunity to play in the postseason. You brought up the pain that you're experiencing. You make it look so easy on the field when you play.

I think a lot of us sometimes just forget and kind of go about this in a robot way that Austin Eckler is always going to be there. What is your week like after coming off a game when you're preparing for another game but also you need to get your body right first? Hey, that's why they pay me the big bucks, man. Make things that are hard look easy. That's what you got to go do. Well, you do that. And your story is unbelievable. Do you think you get the respect now that you deserve? Because everyone gives you positive words of praise. And I know the Pro Bowl, it is what it is now. It's a flag football game.

But then I look and I see that you're not even going to the Pro Bowl with the season that you have. You know, respect is the interesting thing. And why I say that is because I think there's too much perspective in respect, right?

It depends on what lens you're looking through. It depends on if you agree with this person's message, who they are, the person, what they're doing, their story. Do you even know all of it? Maybe you don't know.

Maybe just know the tip of the iceberg, right? So respect comes with a lot of different things that I can't necessarily control. So if someone respects me, if fans know who I am, that's amazing.

I really am cherishing those moments where I can try to make a connection to people and show people my story and how far I've come and things like that. But for the main part, respect is something that has to be earned. So you never stop trying to earn people's respect because you have to keep up with it because if you stop doing the things that you're doing, then you're going to lose it. So for me, everything in my life has just been an uphill climb.

I love that. And if I'm not, if I don't have an uphill climb, I'm looking for things to continue to climb towards. So look, I didn't make the Pro Bowl this year. I can't necessarily control that, but what I can control is trying to come back next year, right?

And try to earn even more respect by continuing to play at a high level. And so look, I don't lose sleep over it, but I will control what I can control and hopefully that will be a result one day for myself. Well, you have a great story and we've talked about this before, but what do you want people to know about that Austin Eckler story and what it took to get here? Man, I really hope what people know about my story is that I actually hope they've learned something for it from themselves, knowing that, look, I came from a small town, but the things that I did, they weren't complicated. They're actually simple, but simple is not always easy because it's hard to be consistent with the simple things. And I was able to find things that I was able to be consistent in, me working out, me pursuing my education, me caring about playing my sport that I played. And those three things, doing those and not making it too big or focusing on results, just focusing on trying to become the best in those things, the fundamentals, the principles of my life allowed me to build up this entire finished product of what you see today. But it started by just doing very simple things and it still is simple things today, but it just takes time. And so I think what I want people to get going back to that is understand that the journeys that we travel aren't as complicated as we might think.

If you look at finished results, yeah, it is, but really it starts with us just putting our foot in front of another and getting going in a direction with something step by step, brick by brick. Austin Eckler here with us, wrapping up with the Chargers running back as the Chargers have clinched their postseason spot. There's been a lot of rumors and a lot of conversation about your coach Brandon Staley this year, a lot of inevitable conversations about Sean Payton and his future as well. Now with you guys going to the playoffs, what did coach Staley show you this year and what's your relationship like with your football coach? Yeah, you know, coach, he's not going to change, man. Like this man's not going to change. And if he did change, then that would have concerns.

Like he's going to be who he is. He's going to preach the same things he preaches. He might put a little twist on it, depending on what we need emphasized for the week and what was lacking, but he's going to preach competition. He's going to preach relationships and effort. That is what he's going to preach because those are the things that we can control. He's the same mindset as me, but just different, you know, upbringings in different times in our life, but it's control the things you can control, the results you can't always control, but you can control all those things that I just said. And if you do that, good things will probably end up happening. And we have to do that better than someone else does because we're all trying to do the same thing.

Who's the most consistent? You're going to hear me say the same things over and over again because that's what life's about. It's about doing the simple things consistently. And so that's the things he wants us to focus on. My relationship with him, man, it's more on the business side just because we don't see us in a football sense. We don't see us at the facility really, but I'm really appreciative of his message and the way he leads and leads by example and then also leads with his intelligence. Like just being in this guy's team meeting is super special. Just knowing how he diagnoses the game gives us a plan and puts that plan into effect during the week. I know that there's always pressure and motivation in this sport, but with the narrative that was around Brandon Staley, did you guys at all sense that pressure and get a little extra motivated? I know you always want to win, but really with his job status that was up in the air, you know, you guys didn't want to let him down, right? I mean, you know, the answer to that question for me, I didn't, I don't even know.

I know nothing about anyone's job security at the NFL level. I don't know who's on the hot seat. Like, we're not paying attention to that, man. Like that's all the smoke and mirrors for media, right? Like, Hey, look at this. Oh, this is some controversy. Come look over here.

That's, that's just trying to catch clicks. Like we were out here. We have, we have our lives and our jobs on the line.

Like if I don't play well, if the old line does not play well, Austin will get hurt. Like that's how serious it is for us. We're not worried about, Oh, like who's done that? Like, no, we're trying to protect each other and win games at the same time.

And so for us, we don't really get caught up in it. You know, we're going out there trying is best for all of us. Cause there's so much for all of us on the line, you know, as an individual, as a team, as an organization, you know, you can bring fantasy into it. Like there's so much that depends on us going out there and playing. We feel all that pressure.

And so we're going out there to be the best of us, man. Well, I know you made a few people happy this weekend with your, with your performance, especially with the fantasy. Look, look, you know, fantasy has been, been great. I freaking love fantasy because look, there's some toxic people in the community. There's toxic people in any community, but there's more support out there, especially.

I mean, if you're doing well, obviously there's support, but here's the thing. Here's the thing. Take the toxicity and the support around like a way like these guys are passionate. People are passionate about fantasy football.

Right. And what, why, why am I attracted to that? Because now people know who I am because they're so passionate about this and I'm on their team.

They don't, they don't even care about the charges. Most of these people, but they care about Austin Epler. They hope Austin Epler does well because they have them on a team. And to me, that's special. That's, that's a connection that I can't get anywhere else. I can't even get that with the chargers chargers, the other fans of the team. But if I go away, they're still fans of the chargers team, right? I'm on your fantasy team. You need me regardless, right? You need me. You don't care where I'm going here. If I'm on your team, you need me like, come on Austin.

I need. And so that's so unique. And so I think more players should embrace that and get through, push through the toxicity, man, because it's out there.

It's everywhere in our lives, but there's more good in it than bad. Well, congratulations on making the playoffs. Good luck the rest of the way this year. Always do appreciate our time and the happy holiday season to you and your family, Austin Epler. Awesome. Thanks, Zach. Appreciate you, man.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-28 16:06:55 / 2022-12-28 16:14:52 / 8

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