ALBANY — With the hot August sun beating down on the University at Albany football team earlier this week, 23-year-old Robert Lachmann took the field at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium with his fellow Great Danes to continue preparing for the season ahead.
And by the time UAlbany’s Aug. 29 opener at Central Michigan arrives, Lachmann — a native of Hamburg, Germany — will have spent plenty of time preparing for his first college football game.
“I started playing football in high school over there. We don’t have school sports; it’s like club sports,” said Lachmann, a defensive lineman. “But one of my [eventual] teammates, he always brought his pads to school, and I asked him one day if I could come — and, from that moment on, I loved the sport.”
Lachmann, listed on UAlbany’s roster this year as a redshirt junior, initially came to UAlbany prior to last season. Throughout the 2018 season, though, he was ineligible to play in games following his transfer into the Great Danes’ program.
So, instead, the 6-foot-3, 241-pound lineman spent what was essentially a redshirt year last season, a period that allowed him to start adjusting to college football.
“It’s definitely the amount of practice. The teams in Germany, they practice two times a week — some teams, three,” Lachmann said. “You don’t practice that often, and you don’t lift together. Everybody is kind of responsible for their own thing.”
UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso said Lachmann continues to progress with his understanding of the game as he fights to earn a role in the Great Danes’ rotation at defensive line.
“Football-wise, he’s [more like] a redshirt freshman or a freshman. So he’s kind of caught in that he’s trying to learn the system, but he’s also trying [to learn] how to play football,” Gattuso said. “So he’s progressing and we’re happy with him. . . . European football’s kind of different than what we do in many, many ways, so he’s really adjusting to what football is [here], but we’re happy with him and we love him.”
Lachmann, Gattuso said, has shown an increased toughness in his second year with the Great Danes.
“I think he’s starting to understand he has to play hard every day; [at first], he had a lot of trouble getting banged up just because of the contact level and the way the game is different here,” Gattuso said. “He’s really grown up, physically and mentally, and now it’s just a matter of learning what we’re doing.”
On the field, Lachmann said he tries to emulate his favorite NFL players such as Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Cameron Wake and Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt.
“The first football game I ever watched was with my dad, and it was a Miami Dolphins game and one of my favorite players was Cameron Wake. I always watched him — and Kiko Alonso, too,” Lachmann said. “I sort of play a different position, but I do try to copy [their] moves once in a while.”
Tyrell Feaster is an intern at The Daily Gazette. Feaster, a junior at the University at Albany, is majoring in journalism.