ATHENS — Not that he wants to put any more pressure on the kid, but from what Matthew Stafford has seen, he figures Jacob Eason is probably better than he was when he came to Georgia as a freshman early enrollee.
That’s a mighty big assertion from a quarterback who eventually became the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick as a junior in college.
“I wasn’t very good,” Stafford insisted. “He’s a super-talented kid. As far as the comparisons go, everybody’s their own player. I’m sure he’s bigger than I am, can probably throw it farther than I can and all that kind of stuff. I’m just happy for him to get an opportunity to play here. It’s a special place to play. I know he’ll have a great time playing and being a student-athlete here like I was. I’m just happy for him, happy for the team, happy for the whole program.”
Stafford, who is entering his eighth year as an NFL quarterback for the Detroit Lions, was in Athens on Friday to talk to Georgia high school coaches about red-zone offense at Kirby Smart’s coaches’ clinic. But he didn’t have to come far as he and his wife and fellow UGA alum Kelly Hall maintain an off-season home in Atlanta.
Stafford’s story is remarkably similar to the one that Eason has written so far. That is, like Eason, Stafford also was a highly-touted recruit who moved far from his home in Dallas specifically to play quarterback in Georgia’s pro-style offense in hopes of preparing himself to play in the NFL one day.
Stafford struggled at first, failing to win the starting quarterback job in a three-way battle with Joe Cox and Joe Tereshinski III and losing the No. 1 position briefly after finally winning it at midseason. But eventually Stafford settled into the role that first season.
As a junior, he threw for 3,459 yards and what was then a school-record 25 touchdowns. He left with 7,731 career passing yards, which at the time was third on Georgia’s all-time list.
“It wasn’t always easy,” Stafford said. “Had a bunch of ups and downs, especially my freshman year. But it was worth it. For me I wanted to play early. I didn’t want to sit out. Everybody’s different. Everybody has a different vision of how their college career goes. But for me I wanted to play as soon as I possibly could. I came in early. That was difficult at times, leaving all your buddies back in high school and everything and being far away from home. But it was worth it for me; I’m sure it will be worth it to him.”
Stafford said he hasn’t had a lot of personal contact with Eason so far. But on a trip to Georgia about a month ago, he said he peeked into the quarterbacks’ meeting room and asked a graduate assistant to pull up some video on the 6-foot-6, 220-pound quarterback from Lake Stevens, Wash.
“It looks like he has a bunch of talent,” Stafford said. “That’s what everybody says. Obviously he was a very highly-recruited kid. It’s a lot of fun coming from a long ways away and kind of immersing myself in Georgia and the culture and all that. I’m sure he’s going to have a good time doing it. I look forward to watching him play today. We’ll see. But I’m excited for him.”
Check back to DawgNation later for more from Stafford on Georgia, on Eason, on Mark Richt and Smart and on his NFL career with the Lions and without Calvin Johnson.