LAKE STEVENS — Moments after being surprised by Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner with an award proclaiming him the best high school football player in the country, Lake Stevens quarterback Jacob Eason answered the question on everybody’s minds.
“(I’ll) play football for the University of Georgia.”
Eason reaffirmed his commitment to the Bulldogs after being presented with the Gatorade National Player of the Year award Tuesday morning at Lake Stevens High School. His proclamation concluded a wild couple of weeks that saw the longtime Georgia commit take official visits to Florida and Washington after the firing of former Bulldogs coach Mark Richt caused Eason to explore his options.
Although, Eason was always leaning toward Georgia.
“I always had a soft spot for Georgia just because I’ve been committed there and I know everybody there,” Eason said. “With coach Richt leaving a little bit of that went away. I was kind of nervous, but I wasn’t over the top like, ‘Oh, I need to find a new school.’
“The other schools I was looking at were really great institutions with great coaching and everything, so it was a hard decision but in the end Georgia was the best place for me.”
The announcement even caught Wagner a bit by surprise.
“I thought I was doing all the surprising but he surprised people too,” Wagner said. “… Georgia got (themselves) a nice quarterback.”
One of the top recruits in the nation, Eason threw for 3,585 yards and 43 touchdowns with just six interceptions this season, leading Lake Stevens to a 12-1 overall record and a berth in the 4A state semifinals. He is a national Elite 11 quarterback camp invitee, a five-star recruit and the No. 7-ranked high school player in the nation according to Scout.com.
Eason visited Georgia last weekend and met with new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, as well as his brand new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. The pair clicked after watching film and helped solidify Eason’s commitment to Georgia.
“He’s a really good guy,” Eason said. “I went down there and met him for the first time. He came in the second day I was down there. … He knows what he’s doing. He’s had Drew Brees, Kyle Orton. And he has a record of playing young quarterbacks early. That’s another big thing that (put it) over the top for me. I’m excited.”
Eason returned from his trip and talked things over with his family before making his decision official Tuesday morning.
“It came down to a really tough decision,” Eason said. “I just ended up feeling more comfortable at Georgia. … Going to Georgia kind of reaffirmed things. I didn’t really want to play football anywhere else. Georgia’s the place for me.”
Now, the senior’s hectic schedule will slow down a bit with Eason finishing up school at Lake Stevens this week. He plans to graduate early before heading to San Antonio for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which takes place on Jan. 9 and is broadcast live on NBC at 10 a.m.
Eason’s first day of class at Georgia will be on the 11th.
“There’s a lot of stuff. I’m trying to finish up school. This is my last week of school and just everything going on,” Eason said. “This, especially, at the end is a huge experience for me. School, recruiting and all that stuff it’s kind of been a crazy schedule. Been living off no sleep.”
Figuring out the next stage of his football career has already taken a large burden off the Eason family.
“It was very stressful and now I’ve got nothing but joy inside me right now,” said Tony Eason, Jacob’s father and an assistant coach for Lake Stevens. “I’m 100 percent behind his decision. I think it was the right decision. Georgia’s got a lot of great things going for him. They’re heading in the right direction and it’s where he wants to go. It’s where his heart is.
“You see how he played for Lake Stevens – he poured his emotions and heart out into every game Friday night – and he needed to find a school he felt the same way about. He’s going to give everything he’s got to that program and I can’t wait to watch it.”
Along with Florida and Georgia, Eason took an official visit to the University of Washington this month. Many local fans thought it would have been an easy transition for Eason from the purple and gold of Lake Stevens to the purple and gold of the University of Washington.
“I know he’s going to Georgia and not the U-Dub, but he found the best fit for him,” Tony Eason said. “He loves the Huskies. People don’t realize this, but they were in it right until the end. We’re big coach Pete fans. He’s a great guy. I put him right up there with coach Richt.”
Lake Stevens head coach Tom Tri, who was in surprising Eason with the Gatorade National Player of the Year award Tuesday morning, said it’s just the latest step in the progression for Eason.
“I’m just super proud of him, super proud of our program,” Tri said. “… To have a Division-I kid, and then to have a Pac-12 kid – oh, sorry, not a Pac-12 kid an SEC kid – (then) he’s (the No. 1-ranked quarterback) and the Gatorade National Player of the Year – it just keeps getting better and better and better.
“In my mind, he’ll always just be Jacob Eason, who was a great kid who led us to a semifinal and three Wesco championships and just a ton of great positive memories who has also helped to build a huge tradition and legacy here at Lake Stevens.”
Tri, who will coach in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl that Eason will play in on Jan. 9, praised Eason for keeping a level head throughout the process, and said he’s going to miss having the signal caller around.
“I’ve been talking with a couple of reporters (from Georgia and Florida) because they all want to know what’s going on,” Tri said. “Some of the questions they’re asking me are, ‘Do you realize what you have there?’ And I answered: ‘No.’
“We see him on a daily basis so we get spoiled. We’re used to seeing those throws at practice. … Then you go back and watch it on film and you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s special.’ That’s something you don’t see very often in high school football.”
With his Lake Stevens career over Eason is happy to, once again, have his future figured out at Georgia.
“I’m really excited,” Eason said. “It’s the best place for me. They’ve got a good thing going on down there. I’m looking forward to competing with the guys they’ve got down there. And being a part of that great program and that great team.”