Erich Schlegel, Getty Images
PROVO — Corby Eason never should have ended up at BYU in the first place. It wasn't long after arriving there, however, that he found himself at home, fully immersing himself into every aspect of the school and the football program.
When then-BYU assistant coach Patrick Higgins made his way to upstate New York to recruit a player back in 2009, he didn't have Eason in mind — he didn't even know who Eason was. Higgins was there, at Erie Community College, to recruit Andre Kates, who was considered to be one of the top JC cornerback prospects nationally at the time.
Higgins didn't find much success in his efforts to woo Kates to Provo, but as Higgins prepared to leave, another prospect introduced himself.
"Andre told me about the meeting and I made up my mind to just wait outside the room where they were meeting to introduce myself, and let them know that I'm a corner and I can play," Eason said.
Eason's presence there wasn't granted by his coach, who insisted that his then-freshman starting cornerback go to class. According to Eason, his coach didn't want to lose him for his sophomore season, but that didn't work with what Eason personally had in mind.
"Yeah, I was disobedient to coach — I was bad, but looking back, I certainly don't regret disobeying that one time. I wanted to take any chance that I could to play Division I football," he said.
After waiting for about 30 minutes, the 5-foot-8 Eason went right up to Higgins, attempting to sell himself as best he could as a legitimate Division I prospect. It's unclear how much effect the initial introduction had, but fortunately for Eason, he had a full reel of highlights to sell as well.
Before long, Eason found his way on a plane ride out to Provo to take an official visit to BYU after every coach had evaluated his film and given it their stamp of approval.
For the Columbus, Ga., native, Provo and BYU were very much the polar opposite of the environment he grew up in. But that was a good thing — something that BYU had going for them as Eason got off the plane for his first official introduction to Provo.
"I grew up in a very rough neighborhood with a lot of violence," said Eason. "It's a place where you always have to watch your back, keep your doors locked and struggle to keep out of trouble. It's home, and a place I love, but it's a place I definitely wanted to get away from."
His official trip brought a commitment, as he signed with BYU almost immediately in preparation to join the team for the 2009 season. He joined the team that year along with junior college transfers Lee Aguirre and Brian Logan, both of whom were regarded much higher as prospects at the time.
Eason was able to prove himself, though, earning playing time and a secure spot on the Cougars' two-deep roster, logging playing time in every game that first year. For Eason, he was driven by the doubt most coaches and evaluators held for him.
"My whole life, every coach — my high school coaches would tell me and tell recruiters that I wasn't a Division I athlete, but that I could only play Division-2 ball or junior college ball," he said. "I never accepted that and I've been aiming to prove them wrong ever since. I think I've definitely done that."
Eason has played a key role in the Cougars' secondary with every year he's been in the program. He split time with Brandon Bradley for two seasons at the boundary corner position before gaining the starting nod at field corner for his senior season.
Finding a spot and proving himself on the football field was only half the battle, however.
Eason came to Provo as a non-LDS, minority student-athlete — within a demographic that is a distinct minority at BYU, to put it mildly. He incurred the initial culture shock, finding a completely different social environment than he was accustomed to.
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