Eaton Building Football Future After Nomadic Childhoodby Sam Gordon October 27, 2018 0 comments
Being a part of a military family and moving around is difficult for a kid, but when that kid is also an athlete, that’s even more difficult.
Iowa State wide receiver Matthew Eaton II was born in Norfolk, Virginia and started playing football at four years old with the inspiration of his older brothers and sister.
“I came from a long line of family athletes both on mother and father’s side,” Eaton said. “All of my siblings were athletes ahead of me so that’s kind of how I started.”
At age 13, Eaton and his family made the move overseas for his father Matthew Eaton Sr’s. work in the Navy.
“When I was 13 and we made the big move to Guam I think that was a difficult move just because the 13 years in Virginia was all I knew,” Eaton said. “At that age, I didn’t want to leave friends and move from an area that I was really familiar with, I would say it was difficult emotionally.”
Going into the eighth grade at the time, Eaton struggled but eventually overcame the emotional toll of the move that he said wasn’t a challenge but something that made him who he is today.
“I look back on my own experiences as a blessing,” Eaton said. “I was just super fortunate to be able to experience those things and get to move around and meet new people and interact with different and see the world so I’m super grateful for that.”
Eaton said Guam’s programs, whether it be football or weightlifting, may have been less organized but didn’t discount the crop of players that he met while playing overseas.
“I don’t look past the talent that is out there,” Eaton said. “There is a lot of talent over there, a lot of guys can come to the States and play competitive football.”
Eaton moved to Mississippi where he attended Pascagoula High School for his junior and senior seasons. He said that after sustaining an injury his junior year, it put some pressure on and made it a race against time to put a tape together and build a resume to get to go to school for football.
“[There was pressure) but looking back on it, I think it was a blessing,” Eaton said. “I believe everything happens for a reason but at the time I did feel like there was added pressure, especially with the major injury I had my junior year I broke my ankle and your junior season is pretty critical when it comes to recruiting and I wasn’t able to exactly show what I could do to the best of my ability that year.”
Despite the lost time on the field, Eaton said he took these struggles in stride and saw the positive.
“I don’t regret any of it,” Eaton said. “All of it made me into the man I am today and the player I am today so I’m thankful.”
Eaton trained hard to make up for the previous struggles and lost time—running hills and coming home drenched in sweat to the point where he could convince someone he just jumped into a pool.
All the hard work seemed to have paid off when Temple University came knocking at his door. But Eaton ran into more bad luck as he ended up with a medical redshirt his first year and barely played at all his sophomore season. He then decided to transfer from Temple to Pearl River Community College, but even then had no hard feelings with Temple and looks back at his experience then as another blessing.
“I just took everything with a grain of salt and just move forward with it,” Eaton said. “It was a great experience that I was able to develop as a player and as a person, it was definitely a challenge.”
After his short stint at Pearl River which lasted from January to December 2016, his fortunes changed when he transferred to Iowa State—marking yet another time in his life where he moved.
As a junior at Iowa State, Eaton amassed 21 receptions for 208 yards and two scores. Thus far this season, the kid who always moved has finally settled in, with 17 catches for 158 yards, and a score as he continues to look forward to a future in the sport.
“I think I’ve stepped in a more contributing role this year,” Eaton said. “I have been given more opportunities and I’m just capitalizing on every ball that comes my way.”
Eaton is continuing his grow, even modeling his game after one of the game’s best receivers in A.J. Green by trying to be a great route runner and outside the numbers receiver. But there’s no one he wants to emulate more than the two people that have been there through all the moving–his mother and father.
“My mother had two and three jobs and my father also being in the military had two and three part-time jobs on the weekends working at big lots and throwing paper routes,” Eaton said about his parents. “They definitely instilled in me to always work really hard, that’s really what has lead me to be where I am today.”
As a senior, his academic career is coming to an end and finding a job in the National Football League is on his mind. But with a simple message to head coaches and general managers everywhere, the nomadic receiver put it simply of what he can bring to their team on and off the field.
“[I] can set the example and create a new culture by example every day coming to work every day and working as hard as I can and being consistent and diligent in my approach,” Eaton said.