Safety Durell Eskridge was one of the breakout stars of Syracuse’s 2013 campaign. In his first year as a starter, he played better and better as the season went along. So well, in fact, he contemplated leaving Syracuse for a career in the NFL. Ultimately, however, he decided to stay.
”It was really a family decision,” Eskridge said. “I was just trying to put my family in the best position possible. Trying to help my mom the best way I can. It was really a family decision. When I talked to my mom about it, one of the biggest things she wanted was for me to get my degree.
"I listened to her and there wasn’t another thought after that. So I told coach Shafer I’d be back and I’d be ready to go.”
Eskridge is on pace to get that degree after this school year. So what is his current thought process about reliving that decision all over again this spring?
”I haven’t thought about it,” Eskridge said. “What I’m really trying to do is just focus on the season. Focus on being the best teammate to my brothers. Focus on having a great academic year and finishing strong in the classroom.
"Just focus on the season and being a great defense and a great team and dominating our schedule. I’ll worry about all of that afterwards.”
So Eskridge does now what he did last season. Focus on football. But there’s something different about the junior safety who possesses ideal size, speed and skillset for the professional game. You can see it, even feel it, when you speak with him. He is a leader in every sense of the word.
”Last year I was pretty quiet,” Eskridge said. “I just wanted to go out there and show my brothers what I could do. It was my first year starting. This year I’m a little bit more amped up. I talk a little bit more as far as being a leader. I don’t talk a whole lot. I try to let what I do on the field be my talk.
”This year I’m a little bit more comfortable being around everybody and talking to everybody and hyping everybody up. Telling them what they’re supposed to do.”
In addition to leading the plethora of experienced members of the secondary, Eskridge has also spent time with the incoming freshman. He has been impressed by what he has seen in the early going.
”The young guys are coming along pretty good,” Eskridge said. “Better than I did when I first came in. So I’m looking forward to seeing them step out on the field and play just as good as we do. Rodney (Williams) made a lot of plays in the scrimmage up at Fort Drum.
”Cordell has been doing good. The other Florida corners, Juwan and Antwan, they’ve been playing very well. You can’t ask for more than that.”
The hype around Eskridge and what he can do for the defensive unit this season is in full force. Many are expecting a monster year. Even with those expectations, he was left off of some preseason lists including the All-ACC team. Eskridge insists he does not pay attention to those things, but that does not mean he is not aware of them.
”I try to stay off social networks for things like that,” Eskridge said. “But I have family that texts and calls me about things like that. I don’t let that bother me. It’s a team sport. It’s not about the individual. It really doesn’t matter to me where they have me ranked right now.
”I’m just going out there and trying to be the best. After the season I’ll look back on what I did and see where I stack up.”
Growing on and off the field as well as becoming a more mature player, Eskridge is ready to hit somebody. Ready to play football again regardless of whether or not it is his last season in a Syracuse uniform.
”I’m good,” Eskridge said. “I’m above good. I’m great. I’m just ready to get going. Just (a few) days out. We’ve been waiting on this for so long. We’ve been going hard all summer. We’ve been lifting weights, working in the film room breaking down film, so we’re ready.
"We’re ready to just go out there and dominate and get some Ws.”