It is a dilemma that every Lebanon County Division One recruit has faced – except in a few, very rare instances. Play one’s sport at the very highest level possible at the risk of playing time, or attend a Division Two or Division Three university and see the field right away?
It was a choice that Arron Achey was also forced to make.
One can deem it neither ‘right or wrong’, because personal preference makes the point moot. But Achey has learned to live with his decision, and he’s currently doing everything in his power to make it the best one for him.
Achey, a 201o graduate of Elco High School, is a junior reserve linebacker and special teams’ performer on the University of Maine’s Division One football team. It may not have been exactly what Achey had envisioned coming out of Elco, but then again he wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Division One athletics.
“I understand that completely,” said Achey of his personal dilemma. “I went back and forth with it. But I don’t regret it at all. Some (Division Two or Three) schools wanted me to come in and start right away at quarterback.
“It was a big part of my decision,” Achey added. “At Elco, I was like the big fish in a small pond. At college, I wanted to be the small fish in the big pond. I wanted to earn a spot. I thought about going Division Two or Division Three, but I was thinking differently. I wanted to compete with the best.”
What has made Achey’s lack of playing time easier to swallow is the fact that the Black Bears are performing so well as a team.
Maine, the sixth-ranked team in the FCS Coaches’ poll, is currently riding a six-game winning streak and is off the best start in school history. The Black Bears are 9-1 overall, and with a 6-0 league mark have clinched a tie for the Colonial Athletic Association championship.
“The season’s going really well,” said Achey. “We expected to be here. Everyone seems to be buying into the process, and everyone knows their roles. Every team’s goal is to win a conference championship or to win a national championship. Right now, all of our goals are right there.
“As a team, if we can come out and do what we need to do, we can be conference champions,” continued Achey. “If we win the next two games, we could get a bye week and move on to the playoffs. It’s still nice to have all those goals at this point of the season.”
Achey has appeared in all ten Maine games this season. He has registered 22 tackles, 16 of which have been of the solo variety. But a portion of those have come on special teams.
“I feel like the season is going well,” said Achey,a kinesiology and physical education major. “I’m in a situational linebacking position. I wish I could be out on the field more, just like everybody else. It starts on the practice field and in the film room. And the better you do there, the better chance you have of playing.
“My expectations for myself are going to be the same, whether we’re winning or losing,” Achey continued. “I want to be out on the field. But getting ‘W’s every week helps.”
Entering training camp this summer, Achey knew it would be a battle for playing time. But he’s on who has never shied away from competition.
“I had high expectations,” said the 6-1, 215-pound Achey. “I expected to be a starting linebacker going into camp. I didn’t quite meet my expectations, but I’m working hard to get there.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to be to look at yourself in the mirror,” Achey added. “”Did you give it your all? Did you put your time in?’ That’s all you can ask of yourself. That’s what matters most.”
Achey actually saw more playing time as a red-shirt freshman than he has this season, but the team didn’t experience as much success.
“At Elco, I had a bunch of offers, a bunch of options, to play both quarterback and linebacker,” said Achey. “I loved playing offense in high school, and I loved playing defense. But I enjoyed hitting people more than getting hit. (Elco’s Mark) Coach Evans moved me inside and allowed me to play more defense.”
Right now, Achey is in a good place at Maine. He derives excitement when he looks ahead, and back.
“Things are definitely going great,” said Achey, 21. “In my sophomore year, I got playing time in some big games. This year, there are some great players ahead of me, on a great team. It’s been a great experience.
“Next year, my expectations are going to stay the same,” Achey continued. “I want to start and play where I can. If they (the coaches) want to move me, thats fine. And I want to continued to contribute on special teams. But my ultimate goal would be to start on defense.”
It would certainly seem that Achey has put in his time for that.