A dream of every high school football coach is to have the chance someday to coach a truly special player.
And if that player turns out to be as special as Jacob Eason, there is no guarantee of ever having the chance to coach someone that good again.
So it is for Tom Tri, who said it is “not going out on a limb at all” to describe Eason as a once-in-a-career kind of player. “I certainly hope I get the opportunity to coach someone like Jacob again,” said Tri, the Lake Stevens High School coach, “but that’s probably not the reality of it. Because to have a player with all the intangibles he has, and with the physical and mental skills that he has, it would be hard to replicate that.”
In his senior season of 2015, Eason collected not only a bunch of local and state awards, but also some prestigious national awards — the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year, the USA Today Player of the Year, and the Maxwell Football Club National High School Player of the Year.
And to these honors is added one more — The Herald’s 2015 Man of the Year in Sports.
All the acclaim is the result of a senior season in which Eason completed 235 of 338 passing attempts for 3,585 yards and 43 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He led Lake Stevens (12-1) to the Class 4A state semifinals at the Tacoma Dome, where the Vikings fell to Skyline 37-34.
“He really has all the tools,” Tri said. “If you start at the bottom, he’s got great feet. He’s not the fastest kid on the field, but he has really an innate ability to buy time. His ability to move around in the pocket, to take a couple of steps to the right or the left, and then to create a play where there is no play, that’s what he’s been really good at since he was a sophomore.
“And then his arm strength, holy cow. The kid can chuck the ball 65-70 yards downfield. And he’s very accurate. … When I say he has all the tools, he really does have all the tools.”
During the college recruiting process, recruiters from most of the nation’s elite programs were stopping by Lake Stevens High School to woo Eason, who by this time had grown to almost 6 feet 6 inches and upwards of 220 pounds — the stature of a prototypical pro-style college quarterback.
“(Recruiting) got a little crazy,” said Tri, a teacher at the school. “A lot of times my classes got interrupted when those guys showed up. Just about every day he had coaches coming by. It was pretty hectic, to say the least. But it was also really a fun process for me (to be part of).”
Eason ended up committing to the University of Georgia, and then started classes there in January after graduating from Lake Stevens at the semester. The school’s athletic department did not make him available for an interview for this story.
About the only accomplishment Eason missed in his remarkable high school career was a Class 4A state championship. And that one, said Tony Eason, his father, was the greatest disappointment of all.
“But even though they didn’t finish up as a team the way he wanted to, holding the state trophy over his head, the process of being with his brothers meant everything to him,” Tony Eason said. “He was playing with guys he grew up with. Guys that grew up in the community and that he’d played ball with since they were all 9 and 10.”
Though Jacob Eason had opportunities to transfer to a different high school, “he didn’t want to run off to a private school or to a school on the Eastside … and find a greener pasture. Jacob was steadfast. He said, ‘I’m a Lake Stevens boy, these are my buddies,’ and he was going to do what he could for his community.”
And in hindsight, said his father, “And I don’t think he would trade (his high school experience) for anything in the world.”
For that matter, neither would Tri. The chance to coach Eason was likely unique and wholly unforgettable. And the amazing thing, the coach pointed out, “is that he was just a kid, just one of the guys.”
During Eason’s years with the Vikings, and in spite of all the accolades, “he was always very humble and very gracious to his teammates and to the supporters of Lake Stevens,” Tri said. “He was never in it for the glory. He was in it to win games and to play with his buddies.”