Jacob Eason of Lake Stevens is National Football Player of the Year

LAKE STEVENS — Jacob Eason is going to have to clear out some space in his trophy cabinet.

With the Lake Stevens High School football season over, it’s awards season for the Vikings quarterback.

Eason, a senior who has garnered several local and national honors, took home one of the biggest Tuesday. He was named the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year, the top high school player in the country. Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner surprised Eason during his weightlifting class at school Tuesday morning, handing him the trophy.

Even star quarterbacks get star-struck. Eason was excited to meet a hometown legend.

“It’s Bobby Wagner,” Eason said. “It’s one of the guys I watch on Sunday play for the Seahawks. That was a pretty cool experience.”

“And the names on that trophy — it’s hard to put into words,” Eason said. “I’m just so thankful to be a part of this great group.

“This is definitely one of the top, probably the top, award because Peyton Manning’s on that award and that’s the guy I idolized growing up. Literally, I watched him. I had three of his jerseys. He was a guy I wanted to be exactly like and now my name’s on the same plaque as his is. It’s just surreal.”

The latest honor continues a trend for Eason, who was named The Herald’s Offensive Player of the Year and the Gatorade Player of the Year for Washington state. Eason also was a finalist for the U.S. Army Player of the Year award.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program recognizes one athlete in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia for football, volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball and boys and girls track and field. One National Player of the Year is selected in each sport. Winners are chosen for athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character.

“I’ve heard a lot about him,” Wagner said. “… Just seeing him right now and the brief second I got to know him, he seems like a very good kid — very well-spoken. You can tell he’s not just a football player — he’s somebody who’s dedicated to more than just football.

“It’s a very prestigious award for him. For me, to be a part of announcing that for him, was really cool.”

One of the top recruits in the nation, Eason threw passes for 3,585 yards and 43 touchdowns, with just six interceptions this season, leading Lake Stevens to a 12-1 record and the semifinals of the 4A state tournament. He has committed to attend and play for the University of Georgia. Eason is a national Elite 11 quarterback camp invitee, a five-star recruit and the No. 7-ranked high school football player in the nation according to Scout.com.

Eason is the second consecutive Wesco athlete to win the Washington state Gatorade Player of the Year award. Former Marysville Pilchuck running back Austin Joyner, now a University of Washington defensive back, who earned the state honor last season. Eason is the first Washington winner to be the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year since Brock Huard in 1995.

“I think it’s nice that a guy all the way out here in the Pacific Northwest can win a national award,” said Tony Eason, Jacob’s father and an assistant coach for Lake Stevens. “It’s kind of rare. I’m happy that he won this award and brought this trophy to this area. He loves it out here. I think it’s neat. Hopefully, the whole community, region and area can celebrate that.”

Tony Eason said Jacob is a humble, down-to-earth kid who doesn’t have an enlarged ego about being the best high school player in the country.

“That’s kind of surreal when you put it that way,” Tony Eason said. “He’s still just our kid. He’s a teenager getting ready to go off to college. He’s worrying about those things: Is he going to get a toaster oven in his dorm room? How big is the fridge? What kind of comforter is he going to get on his bed? Those are all the things we’re talking about right now.”

Lake Stevens head coach Tom Tri, who has been fielding Jacob Eason questions for the better part of three years now, was ecstatic for his quarterback.

“That’s about as big of an award as you can get in high school football right now,” said Tri. “It’s players from all positions, 50 states, at different levels — that’s a very prestigious award. We’re excited for Jacob to have an opportunity to win that award. And it’s great for our program and community, as well.

“It’s so awesome. I’m so proud of Jacob. What a tremendous way to finish off your career.”

Eason’s storied career has led to several awards, making the senior quite good at acceptance speeches.

“There’s not enough thanks I can give to all the people who have helped me with this,” Eason said. “It’s been great. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to grow up and play football for and just be a part of this great community. The people, the teachers, everything about it. It’s just been a great experience growing up here.

“I just think the people around me: my dad, my family, my coaching growing up, they’ve given me the confidence and I just kind of pursued that. Football’s my passion so I’ve worked as hard as I can to get here and it’s just rewarding to have an award like this.”

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