Lake Stevens (Wash.) senior quarterback Jake Eason was today named the 2015-16 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound signal-caller completed 235-of-338 passes for 3,587 yards and 43 touchdowns against just six interceptions this past season, leading the Vikings (12-1) to the Class 4A semifinals. A national Elite 11 quarterback camp invitee and ranked as the nation’s No. 16 overall recruit in the ESPN 300, Eason has been selected to play in the 2016 U.S. Army All-American Bowl and is rated the No. 1 pro style quarterback in the Class of 2016 by 247Sports.
Eason, 18, was presented with the award by Seattle Seahawks All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner. We sat down with Eason to better understand how he outshined more than a million high school football players nationwide to win the award.
Q: Everybody wants to talk about your decision to stay with UGA, but we’re more interested in what it’s been like mentally to think that was all resolved back in July of 2014, but then be thrust back into that circus again?
A: It was pretty unique. It was cool to be able to inform my school and this community today where I was going to go. I was pretty shocked (when coach Richt left), but I just put my phone down and sat down with my family and made a plan for how we’d approach it. We didn’t panic.
Q: After committing to UGA initially, you were greeted by fans at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Does that recalibrate for you how important this game is to people?
A: I shows you how much people want you to play for their program. And it makes me want to play for them. It’s hard to find teams in Washington with a fan following like the fans in the SEC.
Q: You have a lot of pre-game rituals. Give us two big ones?
A: I always have to know where my mom is sitting, and I always pray to my grandfathers.
Q: Your elementary school bus stop was at the top of your driveway and you used to alternate throwing a baseball and football with your dad as you waited. Was that as wholesome as it sounds?
A: Oh man, he used to criticize my form. ‘Keep your elbow up! Put it on a shelf!’ I was like, ‘Okay, I’m just trying to play catch with my dad.’
Q: Why the Twitter handle @skinnyqb10?
A: It comes from a haircut. When I was a little kid, I had long hair and my dad tried to give me a flattop and he kept getting it wrong and he just kept going until it was all skin. He rubbed my head and called me ‘skinny’ and it just stuck. [Eason’s father, Tony, adds that Jake’s elementary school teachers used to call him “Skinny” and thought it was his birth name].
Q: Your dad is often confused with former Illinois and New England Patriots quarterback Tony Eason—just last week, Sports Illustrated and Palm Beach Post made the gaff. Do you guys laugh about that?
A: The media is always trying to get a piece of the story and they make mistakes along with way. We always hear that and I’m like, ‘What? My dad played wideout at Notre Dame.’
Q: You still play with the same kids with whom you played Little League and Pop Warner and you talk about a ‘real brotherhood’ at Lake Stevens High. How special was it to share this with them?
A: This group has been so special and it’s been such a special experience to play alongside them and to share this Gatorade experience with them. I hope they feel like this is just as much for them as it is for me, because it is. This award is for the school and the community, because it doesn’t happen otherwise.
Q: You grew five inches two summers ago and lacked coordination for a while. We’ve heard you were tripping over your feet and bumping into walls. You were not the cool guy on campus, were you?
A: Nope. I was so awkward for a while. I mean, sophomore year I threw seven picks in a three-game span. There are times when you get down. That’s football. But I grew into my body. I’m still growing and trying to get bigger. It’s all part of the journey.
Q: You played your final high school baseball season last spring, but you homered in last at bat. That’s storybook, no?
A: What a way to finish. Honestly, I was just trying to make contact.