QB Jacob Eason chose to not follow Notre Dame legacy
SAN ANTONIO — Before Jacob Eason developed into one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits, he grew up cheering for Notre Dame.
His wardrobe included some Irish football jerseys and plenty of blue and gold. Notre Dame pictures and banners clung to his bedroom walls.
It was simple enough: Eason wanted to be like his dad.
Eason’s father, Tony, played wide receiver at Notre Dame from 1985-86. Before Jacob Eason reached his junior year of high school, he was given the opportunity to follow his father’s path.
“It was obviously a big school of interest for me early in the process,” Eason said. “Every little kid wants to be like his dad and follow in his footsteps. I’ve heard so many great things. There’s so much tradition there.”
In May 2014, Jacob Eason received a scholarship offer from the Irish. Then Notre Dame quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur, who stayed on head coach Brian Kelly’s staff for one season, identified Eason as one of Notre Dame’s top quarterback targets in the 2016 class.
Eason was coming off a sophomore season at Lake Stevens (Wash.) High in which he started 10 games and completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 2,941 yards and 23 touchdowns. Less than a month after receiving the Irish offer, the Easons made an unofficial visit to Notre Dame.
“I took my trip, and I really did like it with Touchdown Jesus and the whole feel down there, all the tradition, the locker room,” Eason said. “It was awesome going down there and being able to see that.”
But the visit wasn’t enough to convince Eason he needed to be in South Bend. A month later, Eason gave his verbal commitment to Georgia. He will start classes in Athens later this month.
“I really liked it down there,” Eason said of Notre Dame, “but when I looked at it all on the whole for me instead of what my dad did, I realized that Georgia was the place for me. Nothing against Notre Dame. It’s a great school.”
Eason’s father supported the decision.
“He was the one that said he wants me to go where I want to go,” Eason said. “If Notre Dame is the place, Notre Dame is the place. Georgia ended up being the place for me. He was all in for that. Now he’s a Bulldogs fan. He’s still a Notre Dame fan at heart, because he went there and that’s where his dad wanted him to go and he loved everything. They’re two great schools.”
When Georgia fired head coach Mark Richt, Eason started to reconsider his commitment. Plenty of schools wanted a shot at the five-star prospect who is ranked as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in his class by Rivals and 247Sports.
The 6-foot-6, 208-pound senior made visits to Florida and Washington in December before reaffirming his commitment to Georgia following an official visit to the school.
Eason kept Notre Dame in mind at times during his recruitment — he got to know ND offensive coordinator Mike Sanford at Stanford and Boise State — but the Irish already added a quarterback commitment from Ian Book in August and had a stocked depth chart that didn’t appeal to him.
“They have (freshman) Brandon Wimbush, who I saw at the Under Armour camp last year,” Eason said. “He’s got a cannon, and he can run. I wanted to go to a place where I can start early and play early. When I see Wimbush at Notre Dame and a couple of the other guys they have, I think it would be a little harder to play early there than it would be at the University of Georgia.”
But even before Notre Dame added Wimbush to its 2015 recruiting class, Eason questioned whether he would be best-suited in Kelly’s offensive scheme.
“It might have been the offensive playing style,” Eason said when asked why he didn’t find a fit a Notre Dame. “In the past couple years, they had Everett Golson and a couple more running quarterbacks. I look at myself as a more pro-style quarterback. Not that I wouldn’t fit in at Notre Dame, but Georgia is more of a better fit offensively for me.”
As it turns out, Eason will still have the chance to play in Notre Dame Stadium. Georgia will play in South Bend against the Irish in 2017, Eason’s sophomore season. In 2019, Notre Dame will play at Athens. He’s already looking forward to it.
Under different circumstances, the kid who grew up rooting for his father’s former school may have ended up at Notre Dame. It’s a what-if scenario that could loom large if Eason lives up to the hype.
“Maybe if I was a different player myself and everything was a little bit different, maybe Notre Dame would have been the place for me,” Eason said. “But with who I am and what Georgia is, that’s the place for me.”
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