ATHENS – Pete Cordelli says Tony Eason scored very high FBI marks. No, Jacob Eason’s father is not an agent for the federal bureau known by those initials. FBI happens to be an acronym that Cordelli, a former offensive assistant coach at Notre Dame, uses for something else.
“Football intelligence,” says Cordelli, who coached wide receivers for the Fighting Irish from 1986-90. “His FBI was second to none. His knowledge of playing wide receiver was like having a coach on the field, and his unselfish attitude of helping his teammates made him the most respected leader of this unit. His preparation was relentless, and he was one of the greatest competitors I’ve had the privilege to coach.”
Indeed, Tony Eason was a wide receiver at Notre Dame. Of course, he’s better known these days for his role as the father of Jacob Eason, Georgia’s starting quarterback.
But there was a time, a decade or three ago, that Tony Eason was a highly touted athlete from the Pacific Northwest. He was once a really big deal in Snohomish, Wash., a 6-foot-3, 200-pound multi-sport athlete who starred in football, basketball and track.
Tony Eason was so good that he earned a scholarship offer from Notre Dame. (He is not the same Tony Eason who was part of the famed 1983 NFL Draft class of quarterbacks who went on to play for the New England Patriots and New York Jets.) He had a number of offers, actually. But, as the son of Lawrence Eason, an Irish Catholic track coach at Snohomish High, there really was no other choice.
“I grew up with Notre Dame as a favorite,” Tony Eason said. “When they offered, I accepted.”
Cordelli was just one of a few coaches Tony Eason played for at Notre Dame. Eason initially tutored under receivers coach Mike Stock. But Stock was an assistant under Gerry Faust, who was fired as Notre Dame’s head coach after a 5-6 season in 1985. The Irish tabbed Lou Holtz as the next head coach, and that’s how Tony Eason came to play for Cordelli.
“A very good football player and a great teammate,” Cordelli said of the elder Eason. “The son of a high school coach who understood the game and his position as a wide receiver better than many of the other players in his group. … He was one of the last players to leave the field every day because he was always working on little things he felt he could improve on.”
Eason’s career started off well enough. He did not play as a freshman, then appeared in 20 of the 22 games over the next two seasons, with one start. He recorded 15 receptions for 254 yards and 1 touchdown. The score was the first of the 1985 season and came on a 17-yard throw against Michigan State.
Big things were expected of Eason heading into the 1987 season, but he blew out his knee running a pattern in summer workouts and had to sit out the whole season . By the time he returned for the 1988 campaign, Holtz had the Irish rolling and there was nowhere for Eason to fit in. Notre Dame went 12-0 and won the national championship.
Tony Eason returned home to Snohomish.
Eventually, Eason would marry Christine and they’d settle nine miles north of Snohomish in Lake Stevens. They’d have three children, including their middle child, Jacob.
Jacob would grow up tall and athletic like his father. The nearly 6-foot-6 tall quarterback nicknamed “Skinny” became the Gatorade National Player of the Year and one of the most sought-after recruiting prospects in the country.
Naturally, his father’s alma mater was among Jacob Eason’s considerations. He camped there and took unofficial visits. But he committed to Georgia the summer before his junior year at Lake Stevens High.
That was fine with his dad.
“I had a great experience at Notre Dame,” said Tony Eason at the time, a firefighter who also coached receivers at his son’s school. “But obviously I wanted Jacob to make the best decision for him. And that was and still is Georgia.”
Eason won the quarterback job at Georgia as a freshman, starting 12 games and playing in all 13. He finished with 2,430 yards passing with 16 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, but the Bulldogs struggled to an 8-5 record.
Fast forward to this season and Jacob Eason is back at the helm of the offense. Unless something unfortunate happens before then, he will start at quarterback for the Bulldogs when they face Notre Dame on Sept. 9 in South Bend, Ind.
Certainly that will be a special day for the Eason family. Nevertheless, Tony Eason is not up for talking about it. In fact, he did not want to be interviewed for this story and offered only a few cryptic remarks via text message.
“This is Jacob’s time, not mine,” he said in that forum.
So far, Jacob Eason hasn’t been available for interviews either. Georgia coach Kirby Smart chose to shield him from reporters during his freshman campaign, making him available only last December during the trip to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis and after the G-Day Game in April. However, Jacob is expected to be available sometime during the Bulldogs’ ongoing preseason camp.
However, both father and son have been quoted aplenty in the past about how Tony’s experiences at Notre Dame influenced Jacob’s recruitment and, ultimately, his final decision to go to school 3,000 miles away from home at UGA.
“He had a great time going away for college,” Jacob Eason told DawgNation of his father in 2015. “That was one of the best times of his life, as it is for everybody. With the stories that he has told, I’m sure I’m going to have a great time at Georgia and get in a lot of work down there.”
Said his father at that time: “We’re cut from the same cloth, really. He’s my son. He’s my flesh and blood. He knows that I went off to college. … I’m sure that’s in the back of his mind. He has traveled all around the country to camps. … So he’s not afraid to get on a plane by himself now.”
Surely NBC and all kinds of media outlets will be pining to hear from Tony Eason when the Bulldogs head to South Bend for that nationally televised game in Week 2. But given his background, Tony Eason’s reluctance to do that probably should come as no surprise.
“I truly believe he passed all of these characteristics and traits on to Jacob as Tony and his wife, Christine, raised their family,” Cordelli said. “Tony has coached all three of his kids and has held them to the highest standards he believes in — get better every day, attention to detail, be the best example to your teammates by working harder than anyone else, no excuses, get the job done. Tony Eason was a special guy to coach and he’s made my life and many, many others much better by the way he lives his life. He is a great representative of Notre Dame.”
And now of UGA as well.