INDIANAPOLIS—Jacob Eason is at the NFL Scouting Combine this week as one of this year's top quarterback prospects, but before the Lake Stevens High School grad was a top recruit who would eventually become the starting quarterback at Georgia and later at Washington, before he was a potential first or second-round pick, Eason was a right tackle blocking for another quarterback at this year's combine.
Eason and Oregon State's Jake Luton grew up about a 10-minute drive away from each other, Luton in Marysville and Eason in Lake Stevens. As kids, they were flag football teammates, and Luton, who is two years older, was the quarterback while Eason was an offensive lineman. Eason only moved to his current position when Luton moved up a level, opening the door for a player who will soon be an NFL quarterback to play his current position.
Years later, the two would be high school rivals for the two years they overlapped, Eason at Lake Stevens and Luton at Marysville-Pilchuck, then last season they faced off at the college level in Washington's 19-7 win over Oregon State.
"It's awesome," Eason said, whose former Georgia teammate, Jake Fromm, is another quarterback at this year's combine. "The guys I used to play with, the guys I grew up with, rival high schools, when it comes down to it, on this stage, it's awesome. To see guys that I've played against and played with succeed at this level, it's pretty unique."
Said Luton, "It's really cool. I've known him my whole life. I think we started playing flag football when we were like five or six years old. Our high schools were rival high schools growing up. It's really cool to have him here from neighboring cities."
While Luton and Eason had different college careers, they were similar in that the two took somewhat unconventional routes to get to the combine. Eason went to Georgia as one of the nation's top quarterback recruits and won the starting job early in his freshman season. Eason opened his sophomore season as the starter, but an injury in the season opener knocked him out of the lineup, and after Fromm took over, he kept the job and helped lead the Bulldogs to the national championship game. Looking for a chance to start, Eason transferred back home to Washington, and had one year as a starter before declaring for the 2020 draft.
"Georgia was a great place for me," Eason said of transferring schools. "It wasn't that it was the wrong place. I'm super glad I took the chance to go down there and the opportunity. I had a tremendous two and a half years and met a lot of great people, a lot of great coaches, and really immersed myself in that culture, some things I'll never forget. I wouldn't take it back if I could. I had a great two years down there and ultimately transferred home. But that's the thing about being a quarterback --- you can only play one on the field at a time, there isn't an opportunity to play three or four like a receiver or a running back, so in terms of my own personal career, the best decision for me was to go elsewhere and try to compete elsewhere."
Luton, meanwhile, started his college career at Idaho and finished it at Oregon State with a stop at Ventura Community College in between. Luton was granted a sixth year of eligibility in 2019 due to a thoracic spine fracture suffered in a game at WSU in 2017, and he took advantage, throwing 28 touchdowns with just three interceptions on his way to the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award. Luton isn't as highly-touted of a prospect as Eason or some of the other top quarterbacks at this year's combine, but he's confident he can show teams this week that he belongs in the NFL.
"It's a great class," Luton said. "There are a lot of great players in it. I'm confident that I can play with the best of them. It will be exciting to see what happens. Whenever I hear my name called, I'm going to go in Day 1 of minicamp and show that I belong. It's not about where you start, it's about where you end up.
"I think I've got the arm strength. I've got the size. I've proven that I take care of the football at a high level. In the interviews, I'm showing that I have a great understanding of the game of football."
And if Luton succeeds in proving himself to NFL teams during this week's combine, then there's a good chance that a pair of Lake Steven flag football teammates could both hear their names called in this year's draft. It's probably safe bet, however, that Eason won't be playing right tackle again anytime soon.