Eakin tackling role as three-sport athlete at Slippery Rock

Bradford’s John Eakin runs with the ball during a game for Slippery Rock during the 2018 season.

The Bradford Area High School Class of 2018 was filled with great athletes across various sports.

There is one, however, that was able to continue his career in three different sports at the Division II level. After a tremendous career in football and track and field and football as a Bradford Owl, it didn’t come as a surprise that John Eakin received quite a bit of attention as both a running back and a thrower. Eakin was contacted and received interest from Army, Mercyhurst, California University of Pennsylvania, Slippery Rock, and Rutgers to continue his football career. In addition, Penn State and Eastern Michigan reached out to him about throwing for them during his college career. It appeared to be a tough decision, but Eakin chose Slippery Rock because of the opportunity to play football at a high level and obtain a degree in exercise science that the school offered.

“Slippery Rock just felt like home to me on my visit.” Eakin said. “The importance of playing competitive football while gaining a great education played a role in why I picked Slippery Rock.” While Eakin went to the Rock thinking his career as a track and field athlete were over, he quickly found himself on both the indoor and outdoor track and field teams.

“I had no plans of throwing again, but the coaches contacted and and told me I had a spot if I wanted it. I asked my football coaches, and they were pretty open to me returning to the sport. Their support has been great, and I am glad to be doing three sports that I love.”

This past season, Eakin received a redshirt as he transitions from running back to tight end. Eakin spoke about the differences between being a tailback to being a tight end.

“Being a tight end to me is a lot harder,” he said. “In our offense, tight ends sometimes line up on the line and have to block down linemen, and other times they are out in the slot running routes and catching passes. It requires great stamina and knowledge because we hope to get plays off in under 18 seconds, so it takes a lot to know your assignment each play. It is definitely a huge transition, but I am glad to be helping the team.”

In his journey to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), Eakin had quite a few people to credit for their support and help for making him the athlete he is today. He started with the football coaching staff at Slippery Rock for making him a better and more knowledgeable player this past year. In addition, he mentioned his parents for their continued support in everything he has has done so far.

“Every moment of struggle I have ever had, they continue to pick me back up and motivate me to keep pushing on,” he said.

So far in his athletic career, Eakin has won two PIAA state track and field championships and qualified for the state meet in Shippensburg all four years. Eakin won both the outdoor and indoor shot put state title in his senior track and field season and also helped the Owls to a District 9 title in his junior season. In his freshman and sophomore years of high school, Eakin qualified for states as a sprinter while as an upperclassman, Eakin made it exclusively as a thrower.

It is a more unconventional pair of events to qualify for states in: the 100 meter dash and the shot put. Nonetheless, Eakin managed to do so as his body began to grow and he added some muscle mass to help him as a running back for the Owls.

In his free time, which Eakin admits he does not have much of these days, he enjoys lifting and plans on becoming a powerlifter after his career in college athletics concludes. He also loves to spend time in the woods with his father hunting and fishing as well as spending time with the rest of his family and friends. In the future, he hopes to be the impact player that former Slippery Rock defensive end Marcus Martin is and the leader by example that Wes Hills is. “Those are two guys from our program I want to be more like if I can. If I can be the type of players and people they are, I am going to have a great four more years here.”

Exposure to a District 10 large school schedule as a sophomore helped Eakin gain great attention and showed him the level he needed to be on in order to be a college football player. He spent the remaining two years of high school football dominating D9 and the former Allegheny Mountain League (AML) and showcased to college scouts exactly the kind of player he could be at the next level.

And while Eakin is now a college tight end and a three sport athlete, he has embraced the challenges well and is ready get back out on the gridiron next season to play in some games for the Rock.