For Jacob Eason, this has been a brand new experience.
For his entire life as a football player, Eason has been the center of attention. As a star quarterback at Lake Stevens High School in Washington, Eason drew accolades for his big arm. He became a five-star quarterback and was considered to be one of the top two quarterbacks in the recruiting class of 2016.
It didn’t take too long for Eason to ascend up the Georgia depth chart as he entered the SEC limelight as a freshman starter last season. Then the Appalachian State game happened. Eason, a sophomore, was injured on Georgia's third offensive series and was forced to exit the game. A sprained knee relegated him to the sideline and freshman Jake Fromm took over.
The rest is history.
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Eason was given a second opportunity to reflect on his year during Georgia’s Rose Bowl media day Saturday, which was the first time he spoke with reporters since the SEC Championship win over Auburn. And much has stayed the same. Eason said he hasn’t reached a decision on if he will transfer at the conclusion of Georgia’s season.
But for someone who has been accustomed to the spotlight, being out of it has been quite the change.
“It’s something you have to learn to adapt to and figure out along the way,” Eason said. “I’ve gotten used to it now. I’m going to do whatever for this team, this program and do anything I can to help them out.”
Head coach Kirby Smart took exception when asked if he has spoken with Eason about any potential transfer decision.
What Smart did say is that Eason accepted the coaches’ decision selflessly. Sure, it has been an adjustment for the highly-touted recruit who, at one point, had almost every major school in the nation wanting him. But Smart believes Eason has handled the move to Fromm as good as anyone possibly could have.
“Jacob Eason has been the most loyal teammate, one of the best teammates there is,” Smart said. “The best thing about him, he’s worried about this team. He’s worried about a game in two days and that’s what he’s worried about.”
While Eason had the unfortunate circumstance of losing his starting job due to injury, he knows anything can happen in a game situation. He made sure to keep preparing for any potential moment where he might be needed again.
A season ago, Eason threw for 2,430 yards, 16 touchdowns and only eight interceptions as a true freshman. The year of experience placed him in a position to be Georgia’s starter at the beginning of this year, even if the gap between he and Fromm wasn’t “significant,” as offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said earlier this week.
While it would have been easy to pout, Eason learned to embrace the second-string role. Given that injuries are common in football, Eason knows he needs to be ready for any moment, much like Fromm was when Eason went down.
“I hope that never happens to Jake,” Eason said. “It’s something I wouldn’t want to go through again. You never know, that’s how football is. It’s a contact sport, people get hurt and it’s the next man in.”
While Eason is no longer the starting quarterback for the No. 3 Georgia football team, he is soaking in the moment of being in the Rose Bowl. Aware of the history of the postseason event, Eason said this is something not many people will ever experience in a lifetime.
It took some adjusting but Eason has come to terms with his role on this year’s team. While it is unknown if he will stick around in the long term, Eason is doing his best to enjoy the present moment.
“You still prepare like it’s the same as last year, like you’re the man,” Eason said. “Ultimately I’ll get better in that regard. My game’s improved with a lot of practice. It’s been different role but I’m glad I’ve had that experience.”