Nick Eaton is making a name for himself in his second year at UC Davis. The redshirt freshman is receiving more playing time at outside linebacker because he makes the most of every minute on the field. The Whitney High School graduate leads the Aggies in sacks with 4.5 and tackles for loss with 8.5.
Four of those tackles for loss and one sack came last Saturday as UC Davis ended a three-game losing streak by holding off Cal Poly 48-24. Eaton also regained momentum for the Aggies after the Mustangs trimmed a 34-0 deficit to 10 on a 69-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Hamler to Quentin Harrison.
UC Davis gambled on its ensuing possession by going for it on fourth-and-2 at the 33-yard line. Jake Maier’s incomplete pass gave the ball back to the Mustangs, however, and Hamler’s 18-yard dash put Cal Poly in the red zone. One play later, Eaton figured it was time to take matters into his own hands.
Eaton’s assignment against Cal Poly’s triple option offense was to contain Hamler and force the quarterback to pitch the ball. Only this time, Eaton went for the ball instead of Hamler and tipped the pitch – to himself. Seventy-eight yards later, the Aggies had increased their lead to 41-24 with 11:23 to go.
“I gave myself a little more space to have a better force angle (on Hamler),” Eaton said. “(Hamler) pitched it slow and I was able to get a hand on it. Once I felt the ball secure on my chest, I ran as fast as I could.”
His timely touchdown along with the tackles and one sack are why Eaton is the Defensive Player of the Week in the Big Sky Conference. Last year, he won the George Belenis Award as the Aggies’ scout defensive player of the year. It would be safe to say the scout award is one no player wants to win twice.
Scout duty ended for Eaton when he started in the Aug. 31 opener at Cal. He saw to that with six tackles, one sack and a forced fumble in the Aggies’ 27-13 loss. Having his father Ed at Memorial Stadium made the day even more memorable. Ed misses most of his son’s games because he is the defensive coordinator at Antelope Valley College. Fortunately for Ed, the Marauders’ first game was Sept 7.
“He was nervous, but I thought he played well,” Ed said during a telephone interview Oct. 16. “He hung in there.”
Ed chuckled when asked he ever attempted to talk his son into playing at Antelope Valley. “He’s not a JC player,” said Ed, who added he and his son usually chat three times a week. “He belongs (at UC Davis).”
A coach’s son, an award-winning linebacker, the fourth-leading tackler for UC Davis … Eaton will take any of those over being described as the guy with the long hair or being mistaken as Samoan or Tongan. He has not cut his hair since his sophomore year in high school, much to the surprise of his father.
“He was always buzzed as a kid,” said Ed, who has nothing against teen boys sporting long hair other than he thought it was no longer cool until his son let his grow. “I guess it came back with a vengeance.”
Eaton digs his hair so much than he runs the risk of it being pulled in a game rather than stuff it in his helmet. Then again, his helmet might not be large enough to contain it all. And given the time and effort he puts into his hair, he prefers not to hide it. When Eaton travels with his teammates for Saturday’s game at Southern Utah, he will make sure to pack a bottle of shampoo and his beloved conditioner.
Nothing less than Garnier Whole Blends with Coconut Oil & Cocoa Butter Extracts will do. Eaton spit out the name as if he was endorsing a product that, according to the bottle, “tames and controls frizzy hair.”
Tamed and controlled? Hamler would probably say Eaton is neither, especially after chasing him for 78 yards.