09/02/04 — College football -- Eatmon getting chance for Wolfpack

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College football -- Eatmon getting chance for Wolfpack

By David Williams
Published in Sports on September 2, 2004 1:58 PM

One of the strangest stories in all of college football involving bands is the Cal-Stanford game from the 1980s.

Cal won the game on a crazy, five-lateral kick-off return as time expired. All of the sports world has seen the tape of the Cal player running into the end zone and over the Stanford band's trombone player after the band had come onto the field, believing the game was over and Cal had no chance of scoring.

If that's the strangest band-football story you have ever heard, Espoinisa Eatmon has one that will give it a run for its money.

Eatmon took an amazing journey from the drum major's uniform at Goldsboro High School nearly two years ago to arrive in the red jersey of a defensive secondary player for the North Carolina State Wolfpack.

Eatmon will be among the players spilling out onto the Carter-Finley Stadium turf Saturday night when State takes on Richmond.

As he runs by the Wolfpack band in front of 50,000 screaming fans, Eatmon may remember in the back of his mind when he was the leader of the band.

Two years ago, Eatmon was a talented and busy young high school student. He played football and was an active member of the Goldsboro High School band.

"In my junior year, I got a chance to be the drum major," Eatmon said. "I dropped football that year to be the drum major."

Leading the popular band at games and parades was a dream come true for Eatmon, but he missed playing football. His passion to play and take on an opponent from his linebacker spot drove him to try something else in his senior year.

He went to football coach Charles Lane and asked to play and be drum major. At first Lane was against the idea -- he did not want his player running out onto the field at halftime and directing a show when he needed to be focused on football. But eventually Eatmon was permitted to do both activities, although the band role was greatly reduced on Friday nights.

"There were a few times I had my band uniform in the locker room," Eatmon said, "and after the game I'd rush in, change into my band uniform and march out of the stadium with the band."

Doing both activities limited Eatmon's time, but he said it was a blessing because "the more time I had on my hands, the more I would procrastinate."

But missing his junior year took him out of the eyes of college football recruiters. Although he was a solid player, he was passed over for the college football opportunities he wanted. He was known more for his play on the rebuilding Cougar baseball team than for his prowess in football.

"It was a mistake to stop playing," Eatmon said. "It hurt me with the recruiters. They didn't get to know how I could play."

Lane then entered the picture. Eatmon had already been accepted to N.C. State. Lane called the Wolfpack coaching staff, encouraging them to allow Eatmon to try and walk on.

A chance was all Eatmon needed.

"I knew I could do it," he said.

The drum major/football player made the team last year and worked on getting stronger and faster to play in the Wolfpack secondary. He trained with the conditioning staff and worked to become a better player.

This fall, Eatmon is on the depth chart of a senior-laden secondary corps. He hopes to get in the second half of Saturday's game if the Pack can get a big lead on the 1-AA Spiders. He is also working on special teams.

He said playing with Manny Lawson, the Wolfpack standout who played against Eatmon when he was a prep star at Eastern Wayne, is one of the best parts of the experience.

"We always talk trash to each other," Eatmon said. "But we are close now and we have love for each other because we are teammates and we come from the same area."

The son of Doffes and Corneilus Eatmon of Goldsboro, Eatmon is majoring in accounting and hopes to go into real estate if the NFL does not come calling. He wants to someday own his own mortgage company.

He stays in Raleigh now that football season is here, but he gets home when he can -- "for some of that home cooking," he said.