Tom Smart, Deseret News
Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the book "Cougar Converts: Life-Changing Stories from BYU Athletics," By Talo Steves, Jedd Parkinson and Matt Hodge, published by Totalbluesports.com.
It was a difficult and often dangerous life for a child growing up in Columbus, Ga. Drug dealers, burglaries and violence were commonplace, and after witnessing it all firsthand, young Corby Eason decided that he didn’t want to live that way.
Corby’s mother, Teresa, also wanted a better future for her son. A strict parent, she established a strong religious foundation for her family in the Southern Baptist faith. Teresa was a secretary in the Southern Baptist Church and made sure her son was involved with the religion seven days a week.
Looking back on his childhood, Eason has great love and appreciation for the direction and guidance he received from his mother.
“Being raised by my mom, by herself, that was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Eason recalled. “She taught me the key values: my faith, being in tune with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, going to church every Sunday, being part of Bible study every week. That’s the only way I made it through my circumstances. I love her so much. Teresa Eason, that’s my hero. If it weren’t for her and her teaching, I wouldn’t be here where I am today.”
Life was difficult and money was frequently scarce, but that didn’t stop Eason from pursuing his dreams and enjoying his childhood. During summer vacation from school, he and his friends would often pass the time fishing. Unable to afford bait, they would get up early in the morning to collect bait, then jump on their bicycles and ride to the local fishing hole.
Eason was also a gifted athlete and learned to play football in a sandlot near his home. There was no grass field to play on, just the dirt and the rocks, but that didn’t deter Eason and his friends. In fact, they played tackle football on that field of dirt and rocks. “I say it made me the athlete I am now, being tough,” Eason said. “(I) don’t care about pain or anything because I played on these rocks.”
Eason excelled at football while at Carver High School, where he was coached by Wallace Davis and Dell McGee. “For his size he was one of the best athletes that a fella ever has the opportunity to work with,” Coach Davis recalled. “Off the field, Corby took on the role of a son to me. I was able to interact with him more or less like a father.”
After graduating high school, Eason had an opportunity to continue his education and his football career at Erie Community College in Buffalo, N.Y. He quickly left an impression on the field, recording two interceptions, 15 pass breakups, one forced fumble, five fumble recoveries and a blocked field goal that he returned for a touchdown during his freshman year.
With a reported 4.4 second 40-yard dash, the 5-foot-8-inch cornerback soon received a scholarship offer from Marshall University and was hearing from various schools around the country, including Arizona State, UCLA, Vanderbilt and Maryland. Brigham Young University was not initially one of the schools recruiting Eason, so when a BYU coach came to town to recruit another player, he decided to initiate the conversation on his own.
“BYU came out to see one of my teammates, Andre Kates,” Eason said. “So they came to see the other cornerback who played on the other side of me. Coach (Patrick) Higgins came out and was talking to him, but Andre had to come back (to Erie) for one more year. Me, I was eligible out of high school so I could leave without waiting another year.
“My J.C. head coach knew that and didn’t want me to talk to Coach Higgins because he knew that I had the opportunity to leave, so he told me to go to class. I disobeyed him, which was wrong, but in the long run it was the right decision for me.”
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