“Yeah, I don’t think I understood grits,” he said with his easy smile. “Then I tried them - they really are good. And those, what are they, waffle fries? Those things at Chick-fil-A? They’ve got those little holes in them. I like those a lot.”
Jacob Eason is going to have a fun four years at Georgia as it relates to food. He probably knew Georgia was the place for him the moment he first ate grits - inside Sanford Stadium last summer. Georgia fans just hope he’s as comfortable Between the Hedges as he is with the cuisine. The five-star signal caller from the northern suburbs of Seattle picked Georgia with his partner in crime Ben Cleveland last summer in what has to be considered one of the biggest moments in recent Georgia recruiting history.
A lot has changed in that time - most notably that Mike Bobo has been replaced by Brian Schottenheimer. But with the class of 2015 now signed and on the way to Athens, the focus of Georgia fans has shifted to the 2016 class. And Eason, as the quarterback of the class, has become the de facto face of the group.
He and Cleveland have been committed for the longest amount of time. As the No. 12 overall player in the country, Eason is currently the highest-rated prospect committed to the Bulldogs. And, of course, he’s a quarterback, and everyone watches quarterbacks.
They are, inevitably, always the next big thing.
That’s something Eason is still getting used to. After arriving at a hectic Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport Friday night, Eason said no fewer than three people recognized him and wished him good luck.
“The amount of support you get down here… its just amazing,” Eason said.
Eason has never been to a game at Georgia. He won’t be able to stick around for this weekend’s G Day scrimmage. He says he plans to return for Dawg Night in July and once more for his official visit in the winter. Eason is scheduled to enroll in January of 2016.
That’s when being a quarterback at Georgia will really start for Eason. If multiple people can spot him at the Atlanta airport while he’s a high school junior, what will it be like for him when he arrives on campus as a student? What will the attention be like for Eason if he eventually becomes starting quarterback?
Right now, Eason is physically insulated from the madness 2,700 miles away in Athens. Certainly he hears the expectations, but from those online - not those in his face. But if this weekend is any indicator, football might be the easy part for Eason - the attention might be another item all together.
Brice Ramsey, who seems to be pulling away with the No. 1 quarterback spot, never had to deal with this… not really. Now? Ramsey can’t go anywhere in Athens without being noticed. Still, Ramsey at least had Aaron Murray to help buffer his transition to the spotlight. Murray wasn’t the presumed starter thanks to Georgia also signing Zach Mettenberger that year. And neither of them was supposed to beat out Joe Cox - and they didn’t. D.J. Shockley never dealt with this sort of attention. The .com world didn’t exist when David Greene was being recruited out of South Gwinnett.
The cell phone is such a weapon these days. None of those quarterbacks dealt with Twitter. And social media is a double-edged sword for Eason. In many ways he has to use it to stay connected to Georgia; but he also sees a lot of stupidity on it, too. Eason stays in touch with Cleveland in a text chain with many of his “hunting buddies”, but often he communicates - even recruits - through Twitter. It is a necessary thing - and it makes Eason very well known by those who have never met him. I also think Eason’s is in a nearly-impossible situation thanks to Twitter and the like.
How is Eason, who is as likable as he is skilled, going to be allowed to grow in this new digital age? Matthew Stafford, who came in with about as much fanfare as Eason is going to get, got tons and tons of attention, and that was a tough transition into the limelight for him. That was nearly ten years ago. Now everything is magnified in a way that almost seems unfair.
Eason is going to be the next big thing - I’ve seen him throw a football. I get that. But will he be allowed to make mistakes, or are we already expecting too much? Can he watch Gossip Girl and nerd out with light sabers if he wants to?
Are we, as a sporting society, going to allow Eason to eat his waffle fries? I hope so, but increasingly I’m pretty sure we won’t. Someone will snap a photo of him, and it will be on Twitter before you know it.
“I ate them before the camp Friday night. I probably shouldn’t have done that, but they were awesome,” he said.