There's a certain obsession for excellence that makes 5-star Georgia quarterback commit Jacob Eason such an intriguing football prospect.
When Eason travels, his carry-on item is his football. Consider it quarterback protocol.
"It goes everywhere I go," Eason said.
And then there are the years of advice from his father he's managed to tuck into his mental Rolodex. Tony Eason, a former college receiver at Notre Dame, has given his son words of tutelage since the top recruit picked up a football as a baby.
"Keep working like you have nothing," his father told him.
It serves as the boost needed, as he not only continues to play as the nation's No. 1 quarterback but also maintains the top spot with hungry signal-callers surrounding him.
With his current status, Eason could easily back off. He's the No. 1 quarterback and No. 3 overall player in the 2016 class. He's one of the major talking points at The Opening and a favorite to shine at the Elite 11. He's committed to Georgia and is predicted to not only start for the Bulldogs early in his career but also prepare for a professional career.
Many in the recruiting world, such as Rivals.com, have even compared him to Matthew Stafford.
In short, the Lake Stevens, Washington, superstar has heard just about everything from fans. And while the words are gratifying and motivational, Eason said everything has to fall on deaf ears.
He'd much rather show everyone that the best is yet to come.
"Working hard is something I've never been afraid of," Eason said. "That's something my dad instilled in me a long time ago: keep working, never settle. But I want to have fun doing it, too."
Aspiring for Stafford status
Eason isn't oblivious to all the comparisons. If anything, they are flattering, as he's a big fan of the Detroit Lions quarterback.
"I mean, what's not to like?" Eason said of Stafford. "He has good decision-making skills. Sometimes, he may not make the right decision, but he has that gunslinger's mentality. He's going to get the ball there. It's just exciting to watch him play."
Much of what's said about Eason now was said about Stafford when he first arrived at Georgia. Fans love that Eason is a quarterback with good size (6'5", 205 lbs), a booming arm and all the potential in the world—in many ways similar to the perception of Stafford before he arrived at Georgia.
|High School Matthew Stafford vs. Jacob Eason|
|Jacob Eason||Matthew Stafford|
|Weight||205 lbs||210 lbs|
|Position Ranking||No. 1||No. 1|
|National Ranking||No. 3||No. 6|
|Total Touchdown Passes||59*||91|
|Credit: Rivals.com and 247Sports. Eason's 40 time acquired firsthand. *Eason still has senior season left.|
"I try to take it all with a grain of salt, but that's one of the things I do strive to be—as good as him," Eason said. "It's a goal, but I don't want to keep my head in all that stuff. I just keep working hard to try and get to that level, instead of thinking that I'm there already."
Stafford set the bar high for Eason. When he left Georgia, Stafford was a school-record-setting passer who finished with 7,731 passing yards and 51 touchdowns in a three-year career. ESPN's Mel Kiper even predicted that Stafford, who chose to forgo his senior season, would be the No. 1 NFL draft pick—before he played a down of college ball (h/t Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com).
Tony Eason hears the comparisons, as well. What he likes about his son, however, is that he makes sure he separates comparison acknowledgment from comparison acceptance.
"He's abreast to all that, but he doesn't let any of it get to his head," Tony said. "The guys I know who were successful didn't worry about the newspaper clippings or the stories. They just concentrated on their ball and the season; they put that stuff aside. My hope as he matures is to just focus on ball."
The focus on football will continue with his work ethic at the Elite 11 and The Opening competitions, and if all goes as planned, it'll result in his flourishing at Georgia.
"I'm all in. I'm excited to see what Coach [Brian] Schottenheimer [Georgia's offensive coordinator] is going to do with me," he said. "I'm ready to be a Bulldog and to get down there and do good things."
Training for success
Staying humble is easy for Eason, particularly when his father reminds him that even the best can have bad days. Eason wants those bad days limited, so he works on everything from accuracy to arm strength to movement in and out of the pocket.
"Stars don't mean anything to him," Tony said. "He's out working like any other guy, meeting dudes and competing. He loves this stuff."
Eason's day starts early in the morning, and a workout, he said, could include "hundreds of passes" a day. It helps to have a father who was a college wide receiver, as the two will go to their backyard and play catch.
Training sessions with Lavelle Durant also are a part of Eason's weekly routine in the offseason. For two or three times a week, Durant—an established quarterback trainer who has worked with Eason for three years—will spend roughly two hours with Eason working on various drills.
They start out with stretching exercises and basic calisthenics to get the blood pumping. From there, they will work on basic throwing drills. Sessions then can branch in a variety of ways, from throwing in the pocket to finding targets on the run to hitting targets from deep.
Durant said he wants Eason to have poise and improve his lateral movement with every session. The primary focus, however, is his footwork. There isn't a session where the duo slacks in footwork drills.
"When I first got him, he had terrible feet," Durant said. "When I first met him, he was a freshman, kind of a goofy kid, really raw. He had a tremendous arm, but that was all he cared about. His drops were bad, and he just had really bad feet."
Durant said Eason's feet now are among his best attributes. That, and his overall attitude toward being the best Jacob Eason possible.
"Honestly," Durant said, "I see him as the prototypical quarterback."
Physically, Eason has all the tools wanted in a pro-style quarterback. He's a specimen at 6'5" and 205 pounds, and he possesses a cannon for a right arm.
But as good as he is, he'll be the first to find a flaw when looking in the mirror.
"What do I see?" he asked. "I see someone who's got a lot to work on. But he can be a good quarterback with some work."
For someone who has a bright future in his hands, Eason's humility is one of his best assets. His ability to take criticism is another solid characteristic.
Brian Stumpf is the vice president of football events for Student Sports and one of the leaders for the Elite 11 and The Opening. Stumpf and the Elite 11 coaches were well aware of Eason's resume at The Opening regional outside of Oakland, California, in May.
The last thing the coaches did, however, was cater to him. In fact, they made sure they nitpicked in every drill. For some, it would have been frustrating. For Eason, it was needed guidance.
"Our guys were making sure that he was staying consistent with his release points," Stumpf said. "Coming out of baseball, he was still recovering everything. When he's throwing every day, he's looking a lot smoother.
"Being coachable is a huge part of it. When you're 17 or 18 and you throw for 2,000-plus yards, and you've got a couple scholarships, if you think you know it all, it's going to be tough. You can see that he's realizing the stuff he needs to work on is going to help him reach his potential."
And reaching his potential doesn't seem to be too far away—even though Eason may believe otherwise.
Pointers, now and then
Aspiring to be perfect came at an early age for Eason. When he was in elementary school, he would work on throwing mechanics and use muscle memory to where everything he did with a football became routine.
He still remembers the quick notes his father would give with every throw—lessons that came across as borderline annoying to a 10-year-old quarterback.
"Get your elbow up. Fix your grip. It used to be every time I threw a ball, he'd have some kind of pointer," Eason said. "It'd always be something small. I used to think, 'Man, I'm just throwing a football.'
"Now, I look back on it, and because I throw the ball so much, I think of the little things. It's crazy how little things like that from a long time ago can catch up with you now. I'm thankful for my dad for that."
Fast forward to the present, and every lesson learned has served as an assist to his immediate future. His high school career consists of 6,228 passing yards and 59 touchdowns. As a junior, Eason threw for 2,829 yards and 32 touchdowns with only three interceptions. Another 32 in his senior season would tie him with Stafford's high school career touchdown passes (91).
On the field, Eason is a surgeon, someone who has proved to be an elite recruiting target. Credit some of the success to Durant, who has also worked with quarterbacks such as USC's Max Browne, Cal's Ross Bowers and others in the last seven years.
"He's just extremely unique," Durant said of Eason. "He has really good mechanics and a cannon for an arm, but the thing about it—he gets it. He understands what he has to do to be a playmaker."
And if Eason has his way, he'll make more than his share of plays at Georgia. Consider it an obsession that will be beneficial.
Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles