LAKE STEVENS, WASH. – How does the University of Georgia somehow land a decorated high school quarterback all the way from the state of Washington?
Washington and Georgia are almost on opposite sides of planet, located 2,724 miles apart. Jacob Eason, the nation’s No. 1-rated quarterback, didn’t grow up as a UGA fan but somehow found a way to the Bulldogs.
How did it happen? Eason’s father, Tony Eason, sat down with the AJC to tell the real story, and it all starts – out of all things – with the NFL’s New York Jets.
“The first conversation, before Bobo even entered the picture, was when my nephew and Jake’s cousin, TJ Conley (who played at Idaho), punted for the New York Jets in 2011. He said the closest league to the NFL was the SEC. I talked to some other people because I played the game (at Notre Dame), and I know some people in the business. Just the level of DB play and the speed down there … for a quarterback to play against those type of defenses every Saturday is going to make that quarterback a lot better. That’s the closest thing you can get to playing in the NFL. And then just the chaos and fanatics that they have down there – for the religion that they call college football. It is really something that Jacob is drawn to. It’s his passion. He loves it to death. People up here like their football, too. But not like down there in the South. We went through a phase up here where some of his friends did not want to play high school football. And Jacob just could not figure that out. He just wants people to love football and love what he’s doing. So that was kind of draw to football in the South.
“And then from there, Bobo got in contact, and we started the process with Georgia. And, of course, they have a great track record with Matt Stafford and what they’ve done with their quarterbacks. Coach Richt was a quarterback himself. That was important to me to have a head coach that played the position of quarterback. I just think he sees things through a different eye. I’m hoping Coach Richt and Jacob will have a relationship that lasts a lifetime. That would be my ideal thing for that.
“So we were blessed and fortunate that Jacob got to see a lot of places on unofficial visits — Notre Dame and Stanford, along with Washington and Oregon State. Then we did the South trip and he got to see Alabama and FSU. The last stop was Dawg Night, and that trip was very strategically placed in my opinion. I say that because it was the last stop. If we had done Georgia at the beginning of the summer, he might not have been ready to commit because he hadn’t seen a lot. He wouldn’t have had anything to compare it to. It worked out for Georgia, and it worked out for us. He had seen everything, and our last stop was Georgia. We jumped in a golf cart with Bobo, and it’s backfiring and he’s cussing. It was funny. The guy was great. He gave us a tour of campus at 10:30 at night. Jacob is grinning from ear to ear. I can read my kid pretty good when he’s really enjoying himself and feeling at home. The minute he stepped on that campus, I think he was feeling that.
“I know talk-radio is everywhere, but when we’re coming into Georgia, they are talking about Jacob on radio. It’s just like ‘wow.’ Here’s a 16-year-old sophomore from Washington, and they are talking about him in Georgia. He just thought that was pretty neat. You know, sometimes the stars line up and everything just clicks. It was a great family feeling when we toured Georgia. There wasn’t one red flag from the academics to the dorms to the student life to the chaplain to the weight room. You name it, and Georgia hit a home run on every one. So (my wife) Christine and I talked, and we didn’t see any reason why we should say no. The only negative was the distance. We’re going to have to put him on a plane, and we’re going to have to get on a plane to go see a game.
“But with the places around here on the West Coast, we’d still have to drive five hours or more to most of them. Personally, I’d rather sit on a plane for five hours than drive. The other thing he had going was Ben Cleveland. They had roomed together up in Baltimore (at Rivals camp). Jacob had looked at him as a big left tackle. When you look at pictures of the guy before they met, it was like ‘wow.’ They went to Baltimore and hit it off. They developed a friendship, and they said it would be nice to play together. By the way, Ben was on that trip with us to Dawg Night. So you take family vibe of Georgia, and a friendship that you have with another guy — Jacob decided that he didn’t want to lose the opportunity for that quarterback spot. He wanted to take it.
“Jacob had seen everything, and I know he was young. The hospitality of the coaches, and how nice they were down there at Georgia — I think he wanted to just make their day, and he wanted to please them (by committing). And I think that is what he’s going to bring to Georgia. He is going to want to play his heart out for Georgia to win a title for those guys. He wants to do it for the people of Georgia. It has been a long time, since 1980. His goal is to bring that trophy back to Georgia.”
The most amazing part of the story was that when UGA changed offensive coordinators, Eason and his family didn’t even blink. Why is that? Mostly it has to do with Eason’s unwavering faith in Mark Richt.
“We had a long talk with Coach Richt and his wife on our visit last summer. We’ve talked to him several times since. Jacob just really believes and trusts in Coach Richt. Like I said, he is a quarterback himself. That was very important for us to find in a head coach. He is a man of faith and values. You can see the way people talk about him that he is a man of his word, and that he’s trustworthy. He is going to be there for more than football for my son. So Jacob put his trust in Coach Richt, and he told us that he was going to find us a good one for offensive coordinator. ‘Don’t worry. Stay with us. We will keep you posted.’
“Schottenheimer came on board. Obviously you look at his resume, and ultimately when Jacob is done with Georgia, he wants to have a long NFL career. That’s where Schotty came from, and it only took one phone call for him and Jacob to hit it off right away. We sat there waiting to find out who the next coach was going to be. It’s not like we panicked and were going to go visit a lot of other schools. That’s the thing about Jacob. He gave his word that he’s going to go to Georgia, and they call him ‘No Drama’ Eason on the recruiting websites. That’s him. You don’t have drama. He’s a man of his word. That’s what he’s going to do, sign with Georgia – unless Coach Richt goes somewhere and they are going to run Georgia Tech’s offense. Then maybe he would change his mind. He fell in love with football there but really it was more than that. Jacob fell in love with the coaches, the campus, the people, the state, and the country vibe. It’s not just one thing that made him go to Georgia. It can’t be one thing, because if that one thing goes away, you’re going to be crushed. He’s going to Georgia for a lot of reasons.”