Bobby Wagner wasn’t demolishing opposing players or adding to his already-enormous NFL tackle total on Tuesday, but the Super Bowl champion and First-Team All-Pro still had an extremely special and productive day in the Pacific Northwest.
The fourth-year Seattle Seahawks linebacker joined Gatorade in surprising Lake Stevens (Wash.) High School quarterback Jacob Eason with the most prestigious individual honor in high school sports, the Gatorade National Player of the Year award.
“It’s amazing to a part of this,” Wagner told HERO Sports after surprising Eason with the award on Tuesday. “With the whole surprise, it was just a really good experience and I was glad to be a part of it.”
Wagner made the short trip north from the Seahawks practice facility in Renton to chat with the Vikings’ football team and introduce a new fitness machine, or at least that’s what Eason thought.
The 6-6, 210-pounder is a highly-coveted five-star recruit that previously committed to Georgia in 2014 but was re-considering his options after the Bulldogs fired Mark Richt on Nov. 29. He took visits to both Georgia and Florida in the days following Richt’s departure, prompting speculation that he could flip to the Gators. But, following the surprise announcement by Wagner, an appreciative and humble Eason said he would stick with Georgia.
Wagner, a former two-star recruit in the 2008 class, received minimal interest from FBS teams as a 6-3, 215-pound linebacker from Colony High School in Ontario, California. He, unlike Eason, who has been bombarded with recruiting pitches and media requests over the last three years, was not on the radar of any elite programs and gained little attention from national recruiting analysts before committing to Utah State three months before graduation.
“My mom said no matter where you are, if you’re good, they’ll find you. I knew I was going to a small school and if I worked hard and did everything I could, they would find me.”
His mom, Phenia, was right.
Four years, 443 tackles, three First-Team All-WAC nods and one WAC Defensive Player of the Year award later, Wagner was one of the best players in college football, leading to his selection in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.
“There are guys with aspirations of becoming an NFL player and no matter where you’re at, going to a big or small school, if you put in the work and effort, you will be rewarded. Just stay focused and understand that football is a big part of your life but there are other aspects you need to focus on. School and building your character are things just as important as football. The importance or building your football craft is just as important as building your character as a person as well.”
Not every two-star recruit or five-star player has developed into an impactful NFL player but the advice, mindset and talent of an overlooked guy like Wagner or past Player of the Year winners such Emmitt Smith (1987) and Peyton Manning (1994) will certainly help Eason as he jumps from Washington high school football to the mighty SEC.