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Jake Fromm and Jacob Eason took different paths to arrive in Indianapolis.

How college friends Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm didn’t let competition ruin their NFL hopes

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How Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm both got back together at 2020 NFL Draft

INDIANAPOLIS — Prior to the biggest week-long job interviews of their lives, Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm and Charlie Woerner all got a chance to catch-up. All three players and former Bulldogs are in Indianapolis this week taking part in the 2020 NFL Combine with hopes of impressing a future employer.

But on Monday night, the three just got a chance to just be old pals catching up.

“He actually came and hung out with me and Charlie Woerner in our room last night and talked, and made things back the way they used to be,” Fromm said. “So really excited for him and his future and whoever he ends up.”

Eason and Woerner both arrived as members of Georgia’s 2016 signing class, Kirby Smart’s first at Georgia. Fromm arrived a year later. They all played key roles in shaping the early part of Smart’s tenure at Georgia, with Eason starting 12 games as a freshman and Fromm starting 14 the next year.

Given that both Eason and Fromm were top 50 overall prospects coming out of high school, it’s no surprise that either player is speaking and meeting with NFL decision-makers this week.  But how both Eason and Fromm — the first two quarterbacks signed by Smart — got to this point wasn’t so simple. There were injuries, a transfer, concerns about arm strength and athleticism and just about everything you could imagine packed into their brief college careers.

The two quarterbacks and the discourse around them at this point could not be more different. For Fromm, he’s spent the week answering questions about his hand size while others have wondered just how strong his arm is. With Eason, his physical tools might almost be too big, as he measured just under 6-foot-6 and the concerns are about how accurate his rocket arm might be.

But for a brief moment on Monday night, all of that was put on the backburner. They were chatting like they might have been doing so during at dining hall in Athens.

“We’re all friends, we’re all competing. You make friendships in this whole process,” Eason said.  “A guy like Jake, a guy like Charlie. It’s always good to see guys like that become successful.”

Eason arrived in Athens in 2016 as a 5-star quarterback and had long been billed as the savior of the program. Even after the coaching change from Mark Richt to Smart, Eason stuck with his pledge.

He didn’t beat out Greyson Lambert to start the 2016 season, but by the second game, he ascended to the starting quarterback spot for the Georgia Bulldogs. His first season was filled with some peaks — game-winning drives on the road against Kentucky and Missouri — and valleys — defeats to rivals Florida and Georgia Tech.

“The biggest thing I would take away from that was playing in the SEC as an 18-year old freshman,” Eason said on how his time at Georgia helped him. “It was a lot going on. It was a lot to handle.

“Getting that exposure early was huge. It allowed me to take it in, learn from it and progress throughout my career.”

He completed 55 percent of his passes while throwing 16 touchdowns to eight interceptions. The Bulldogs went 8-5, but growth was expected. Even with Fromm coming in as a member of the 2017 recruiting class, Eason was still cemented as the quarterback of the future for Georgia.

But Eason would make just one more start for the Bulldogs. Just minutes into the start of the 2017 season, Eason hurt his knee against Appalachian State. Fromm entered the game and never ended up relinquishing the job.

Related: Jacob Eason is the ultimate Georgia football ‘What If’

Even after Eason recovered from the knee injury, Fromm was still clearly the starting quarterback. Georgia won games against Notre Dame and Mississippi State, with Fromm throwing key touchdown passes to Terry Godwin in both games. He showed early on that he could come through and lead the Bulldogs.

As for Eason, he’d give tips and pointers whenever he could and Fromm was receptive to Eason’s advice. He did acknowledge how tough it was to watch Georgia’s spectacular season that ended with a Rose Bowl win, SEC title and national title game appearance from the sideline.

But he was nothing but supportive of Fromm and the team.

“I was able to give him some advice,” Eason said. “He was a tremendous player and a tremendously talented guy so not much was needed. But anywhere I felt I could help him, I stepped in.”

Eason never publicly complained about his benching and wait till after the season ended to announce that he would be transferring from Georgia in order to pursue more playing time. These actions by Eason are what endeared him to many in the Georgia fan base.

But Eason didn’t walk from Georgia right into a starting job at Washington. Nor did he do it in his second game. He sat out the entire 2018 season after transferring — unlike Justin Fields another 5-star quarterback who transferred from Georgia after he was unable to beat at Fromm as the starting quarterback.

Eason went on to start just one game in the span of two seasons. But that time away from the starting role helped Eason grow as both a player and a person.

“Knowing that you’re not going to play that’s pretty hard,” Washington teammate Aaron Fuller said.  “But seeing how he grew as both a quarterback and as a leader, it’s pretty impressive to see.”

As a redshirt junior, Eason improved his completion percentage to 64 percent while also tossing 23 touchdowns. But many of the close games Eason won as a freshman, went the other way with Washington. The Huskies went 0-4 in one-score games with Eason as the starter, compared to the Bulldogs going 5-3 in 2016.

Eason once again went 8-5 as a starter, but he had answered some of the questions surrounding him after his long break from college football. He declared for the 2020 NFL Draft, with Mel Kiper Jr. projecting him to be taken by the New England Patriots in the first round of his most recent mock draft.

While he might not have grown physically since his time in Athens, it’s clear he’s a more mature person than when he arrived in Athens as an 18-year old.

Jacob Eason discusses Georgia football

But with Eason answering many of the questions surrounding him and his college path, more and more have sprouted up for the quarterback who stayed in Athens.

Fromm built on a strong freshman season by throwing for 30 touchdowns as a sophomore and leading Georgia to another win SEC East title. The Bulldogs lost to Alabama in the SEC championship game, but it was no fault of Fromm. He threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns. He remarked on Tuesday that it was probably the best game he played in college.

Expectations were once again high in 2019, with Georgia bringing back one of the top offensive lines as well as an elite running back in D’Andre Swift. Those expectations were not met. The Bulldogs struggled at the wide receiver position while there were also some growing pains in a new offense.

But parts of Fromm’s game also regressed. He had five straight games with a completion percentage under 50 percent. He did that only three times in his first two seasons. His touchdowns, completion percentage and yards per attempt all dipped in his junior season.

The Bulldogs though will still able to win 12 games and Fromm rebounded with a strong performance in the Sugar Bowl against Baylor. Fromm thought long and hard about what to do next and decided after much thought and prayer that he was ready for the next step. His time in Athens had come to an end as he declared for the 2020 NFL Draft. 

But the questions didn’t stop when Fromm got Indianapolis. On Monday his hands measured in under nine inches. This is as a red flag in the NFL scouting community, but Fromm fired back at anyone suggesting that the size of his hands would prevent him from being a successful quarterback.

“It’s an eighth of an inch away from being the desired 9 inches — no big deal,” Fromm said. “It’s the same hand that went to three SEC championships, you know, a Rose Bowl, a national championship and some Sugar Bowls. So I think it’s played plenty of football and done well enough so far.”

Fromm also got a strong endorsement from wide receiver Lawrence Cager. When Cager was on the field for Georgia in 2019, Fromm completed over 70 percent of his passes. But that number dropped under 50 percent as Cager was sidelined with injuries.

“Jake, whatever doubts you have about Jake they’re probably not correct,” Cager said. “His leadership, what he commands from an offense, the way he takes over a team and the day-to-day grind is second to none to me.

“You can’t ask for anything better from a quarterback. ”

As for Fromm, he’s seen as a second-round pick at the moment. But a strong showing in an Indianapolis in both drills and team meetings could bump his draft stock up into the first round.

Georgia football quarterback Jake Fromm puts down worries over hand size

Related: Lawrence Cager’s message at NFL combine: ‘My ceiling is high’

Much as they were for a brief time in Athens, Eason and Fromm are competing against each other. It’s almost a certainty that the two will be linked for the entirety of their professional careers, given their time as Georgia quarterbacks and that they seem to be polar opposites from a prospect standpoint.

Eason and Fromm also both demonstrate that growth isn’t always linear.  Sometimes your knee buckles and you have to step back and re-evaluate your path. Or a Saturday downpour will prevent you from showing that you’re a more than capable signal-caller.

Both have their strengths and flaws, but each player demonstrated during their college careers that they’re worth a high selection in the 2020 Draft.

They each took different paths to get to this point, but through all the ups and downs and challenges presented, the two are still able to catch up like the college pals they are.

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