‘A battlefield of the mind’: Clemson’s Nick Eason is discovering
CLEMSON, S.C.– Nick Eason was lacing up a pair of cleats he ‘d borrowed from Clemson’s devices supervisor a couple of minutes before 5 a.m. when Ruke Orhorhoro initially spotted his coach. It’s not that it was a shock to see Eason there. Clemson’s protective deals with coach had been assuring to go through the team’s offseason mat drills for a while, but Orhorhoro had constantly been hesitant. Eason is 42, 12 years removed from his last NFL game, and until recently, he ‘d been pressing 400 pounds.
“I was puzzled,” Orhorhoro said. “I was like, ‘What is this cat doing?’ Coaches do not do mat drills. That simply doesn’t take place.”
Mat drills are a staple of Clemson’s offseason conditioning, an onslaught of high intensity, progressive exercises lasting about five minutes each– rope drills, agility drills, bear crawls, turns, toppling, sled work, footwork drills. It’s as much a mental challenge as a physical one, something Orhorhoro paradoxically states, “has nothing to do with football however likewise whatever to do with football.”
As other players arrived, Eason’s existence was met a mix of curiosity and disbelief.
“They were taking side bets on for how long I ‘d last,” said Eason, who’ll lead among Clemson’s units in its intrasquad spring game on Saturday.Editor’s Picks 2 Related But Eason
had no intent of giving up. The method he saw it, there were 3 ways this ended: He lost consciousness, he died or he finished.Since he got to Clemson in January 2022, Eason’s approach to the task has actually been immersive. His very first discussion with Orhorhoro was a two-hour treatment session, an unfurling of Eason’s own life story as a means of learning more about one of his new players. He invites his linemen to his house for dinner. He takes them to church with him on Sundays. And he’s always believed he needs to never ever ask something of his players he’s not going to ask of himself.No one anticipated that commitment to consist of mat drills, however Eason was figured out. He ran through the very first drill, then the second and 3rd and just kept going. He ended up every station, frequently leading the pack.”He’s going to do everything he can to reveal that absolutely nothing’s difficult if you do
the work,”defensive tackle Tyler Davis said.”It was remarkable.”Eason wasn’t impressed though.Fifteen months earlier, Eason came to Clemson obese, depressed and lost. He’s trying to find his way back to a better
stability now, and mat drills were truly simply a bench mark, a chance to examine his development and evaluate just how much farther he still had to go.He’s lost 62 pounds in the past year. He hasn’t had meat or dairy in 7 months. He’s pulled himself out of the darkest chapter of his
life, and he’s discovered renewed hope at his university, not by trying to regain his youth, but by finding a better balance in his life. “I take a look at old photos, and in some cases that’s the worst thing to do,”Eason said.”But I’m looking at the 42-year-old version of myself now
, and it’s still not where I desire it to be, but I didn’t get here overnight and it’s not going to get fixed overnight. It takes a lot of perseverance and keeping the right perspective on the little things I’ve done simply making the effort to get up every day and keep attempting.” In addition to working out 3 times a week, Eason
has gone vegan. Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire BACK HOUSE IN Georgia, food is the connective tissue that binds folks together.”When I go home, it’s,’Come over to my home and let’s eat,’ “Eason stated.”Go to church and let’s consume. Saturday in the park and let’s consume. “However food took its toll on Eason’s family. Almost all his relatives were overweight. Two uncles died in their early 50s. The ones who made it through longer often wound up on dialysis, their bodies breaking down so considerably that their later years did not have any sense of delight. Eason remembers a time when he was playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers when a coach positioned a question: The number of 300-pound 80-year-olds did he understand? Eason said he didn’t understand any.”Right,” said the coach.”They’re all dead. “Food couldn’t be the centerpiece of Eason’s existence if he wished to live a long and happy life, but his relationship with food was complicated.He is, he said,” a psychological eater,”and when times have been hard, he would turn to the things that always brought him comfort.Double cheeseburgers.Little Debbies.Oreos.Through COVID-19, Eason actually discovered a healthy rhythm. He consumed well. He worked out. He trimmed down.
However by the summer season of 2021,
things started to unravel.Eason was a popular player at Clemson throughout his college days, however he ‘d just kept in regular contact with a couple of previous colleagues over the years. His closest friend from those days was Altroy Bodrick, a previous Tigers linebacker who ‘d made a point to call Eason regularly and drive to his games. In late June 2021, Bodrick had a huge cardiovascular disease and died. He was 41. Eason was devastated.Three months later on, Eason’s grandmother, too, suffered a heart attack. Betty Holland had actually always been his rock, the person who had actually inspired him to play football, to find God, to chase his dreams. Now she remained in hospice care, and Eason spent 2 months driving three hours from Auburn, where he was coaching at the time, to visit her for an hour or two before reversing and making the drive back house. Holland died in November 2021. Eason fell into a deep anxiety. His relationships with some members of his household were torn at the time, he said, and he didn’t feel comfortable talking about his battles with lots of people around him. “You see Nick, and everything looks ideal, however he simply wasn’t right,”Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.Instead, he consumed, and he worked, and he cried, which was his life for nearly a year.”It’s genuine, male. Human,”Eason said.”I’m a human. And it’s having the ability to endure those tough minutes, and unfortunately that was my way of surviving. … I just kind of consumed my anxiety.”By the start of last football
season, Eason weighed in at 394 pounds, the heaviest he ‘d ever been.When he went to the doctor,
the conversation tackled as expected. They spoke about cardiovascular disease and diabetes and blood-pressure medication. Eason required to alter, or he would die.Truth is, Eason hadn’t really been living
for the previous year anyway. He ‘d let his sorrow overwhelm him, and he ‘d relieved that hurt with sugar and fatty foods
.”I simply informed myself, ‘You’re done with whatever you’ve started on. You have to get it together or you’re not going to live,'” Eason remembered. Eason participated in mat drills throughout spring practice with the Clemson players. @ClemsonFB AN AVERAGE DAY of
eating for Eason before he altered his life: Breakfast: grits, eggs, bacon, a biscuit and, on an especially indulgent day, pancakes.Lunch: a double cheeseburger plate, ideally from Mac’s Drive-In, where he ‘d include a couple slaw dogs(all the way), a sweet tea and a milkshake.Dinner: it differed, but Blue Heron outside Clemson was a preferred. He ‘d purchase sushi or calamari to start. Then salmon, grits and collards. A couple beverages. Then the coup de gras was a double serving of their cobbler (“The very best in the city,”Eason said). And after that snacks: Little Debbie
oatmeal pies, zebra cakes, chocolate chip cookies dipped in milk. Sodas. Oreos.Total calorie count: Do not ask.”A great deal of people rely on alcohol and drugs, and that’s not my thing. But an Oreo cookie or some ice cream or a juicy hamburger is right down my street,” Eason said. “I’m just eating, consuming and eating, and I’m feeling great. Which’s a trigger in your brain. You awaken to steak and biscuits and grits and eggs.
Working out, that’s discomfort. I was selecting what was simple.”Eason still talks adoringly about his favorite foods and dining establishments, but his binging days lag him.
He’s gone vegan, and he has most meals prepped for him by a vegan restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina. The cheeseburgers have been replaced by black bean hamburgers that he eats with homemade French french fries he cooks in his air fryer. He makes rice bowls– whole grain rice only, he stated– and tops them with mushrooms and red peppers. He’s stopped guzzling sodas and now drinks water.It’s a marked modification to his lifestyle, however Eason said it was just a matter of deciding and committing to it. “It ended up being a battleground of the mind,”he stated,”and as soon as my mind is comprised my body follows.”Orhorhoro said his roommate, Jalyn Phillips, saw Eason just recently and was so shocked by the brand-new body he was at first stressed the coach was sick.Nope. Eason is better than ever.It’s not just the new diet plan either, Eason stated. He works out three days a week at a regional health club owned by former Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware.
And because Swinney has always prioritized family time, it’s allowed Eason a possibility to return to Atlanta
and hang out with household.” In this company, I call myself a bad papa,”
Eason said.”I take care of my kids economically, however you’re just never ever there. “In the past year, however, Eason’s been home consistently, sitting in the stands
for a bulk of his kid’s high school games.More than anything, Eason’s opened up. He’s built trust with the people around him. He’s not pretending everything is okay while burying his feelings under a mountain of bacon and grits. He’s even sharing his journey openly in hopes others will discover hope in his success.In 2021, I lost my previous teammate and dear pal.
Months later I lost the rock of my life, my grandmother. For a year, I ate on 80 pounds of anxiety. BUT I PRAYED and challenged myself to model the “effort” I required of my players. I’m down 62 pounds, with 40 more … pic.twitter.com/vW47HQTMfg!.?.!— Coach Nick Eason(@CoachEason1) March 3, 2023 Swinney recalled his own struggles maturing in the middle of poverty with a father who typically drank excessive, and how opening up about his journey provided a sense of peace. He sees parallels for Eason.”Things I was ashamed about as a kid, later on in life it assisted me to share it and to realize that there was other people like me,”Swinney
stated.”That released me up to speak about things I never ever would’ve spoken about previously. Nick’s the very same way. He understands he can influence other individuals by what he’s been through.”Eason isn’t at the end of the journey, he said. He’s got at least another 32 pounds to lose prior to the season begins. But that’s just a number, actually. He confesses his post-NFL profession has been something of a yo-yo when it comes to his weight, so all the development he’s made is just a step– a huge one– in a continuous process of figuring out a much better method to live and also lead.The 400-pound
Nick Eason was still an excellent coach who loved his players. This version, nevertheless– the one closing in on 300 pounds– isn’t simply teaching his men. He’s showing them the method. “Even when he was too heavy, he was a lots of energy,”Swinney said. “And now, he’s unstoppable and the players truly, genuinely enjoy him. He’s special.”