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The Dartmouth D-back, who led the Ivy League in interceptions last year, nearly chose to play for Penn in 1997. If it wasn't for the good time Dartmouth junior strong safety Brad Eissler had in Hanover during his recruiting trip, he might be starting in a Penn uniform this coming Saturday. "I had such a blast!" he said. Originally Eissler planned to enter Penn in 1997 but a late visit to Dartmouth caused him to switch from the southernmost to the northernmost Ivy. Before matriculating at Dartmouth, Eissler attended Mainland High School, where he was a cornerback, punt returner and receiver. "I mainly played defense," Eissler said. "I just filled in once in a while on offense." The Linwood, N.J., native played on the 1995 Cape Atlantic League Championship-winning Mainland High squad. The team also won the Group III state championship in 1995 and 1996. For Eissler, there were no drawbacks to playing for an Ivy League school because he did not receive any football scholarship offers. When it came time to make a decision, Penn was high on his list of schools, which included a handful of other Ivy League institutions. Eissler's initial desire to go to college in Philadelphia makes sense since he grew up in South Jersey and is an avid fan of Philadelphia's Phillies, Eagles and 76ers. But what about the Broad Street Bullies? "I'm down with the Flyers," Eissler said. Despite his love for Philadelphia sports and desire to play for the Red and Blue, Eissler was wooed by Dartmouth, where he was moved to the safety position on the junior varsity team as a freshman. It wasn't until his sophomore year that he emerged as one of the few bright spots in Dartmouth's 2-8 season. Not only was he a standout in Hanover, but he also earned an honorable mention All-Ivy selection. In only his first year at the varsity level, Eissler led the entire Ivy League with six interceptions, the first of which came in last season's home opener against the Red and Blue. His first college highlight was timely as well. Already trailing 10-0 halfway through the second quarter, Eissler intercepted a Matt Rader pass on the Big Green's six-yard line to keep the Quakers lead at 10. When he finished the season with six interceptions, Eissler fell one pick shy of the school record set by Lloyd Lee in 1997. The Government major averaged 13.8 yards per interception return and scored the only Big Green defensive touchdown of the season, when he returned a pass from Brown quarterback James Perry for a 35-yard touchdown. Eissler also made seven tackles in his college debut against Penn, en route to 83 tackles for the season -- third best on the team. His accolades as a sophomore made him an easy choice for Dartmouth's Doten Award, which is given to a sophomore who has "made a significant contribution to the success of the varsity football team." Although the Red and Blue know first hand why Eissler was worthy of the Doten Award, Penn is not about to rearrange its offensive agenda because of one player. "I heard [Eissler's] a pretty good player and a heady guy but I'm not going to shy away from him at all," Penn quarterback Gavin Hoffman said. "I'm not too worried about specific defensive personnel right now. I'm more worried about the [defensive] schemes. I'll worry more about personnel in the later games this season." Hoffman, a Northwestern transfer, is making his Ivy League debut this weekend just like Eissler did one year ago. This time Eissler's role will be to lead the defensive backfield in an attempt to shut down the former Big 10 quarterback. "We know [the Quakers] have a new quarterback but we haven't seen him," Dartmouth head coach John Lyons said. "We don't know much about [Hoffman], so it does present a challenge." As one of only five starters returning on defense, Eissler will have to be up to the challenge, if Dartmouth's defense -- worst in the Ivies in total yardage in '98 -- is going to stop Hoffman. Just think -- instead of having the responsibility of keeping Hoffman in check, Eissler would be welcoming him as a new teammate, if not for a fateful trip to Hanover in the spring of 1997.

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