Conor Easthope is an outstanding football player. But as good as he is on the gridiron, it’s the type of young man he is and is becoming that really stands out. And while winning games and earning trophies are always nice, isn’t becoming a better person what high school athletics are all about.
Easthope suffered a devastating foot injury during the second half of Pioneer’s season-opener a few weeks ago at Skyline. The injury put the starting quarterback in a cast and ended his senior year before what many might suggest even got started. But this started a long time ago for this young and talented football player – he’s been pointing to this season for years, working hard and preparing to help lead his team to its best season in years.
But just like that – one simple running play in the middle of the field against Skyline – it was over. Devastating. Painful. Disappointing. They all fit, but so does “grateful.” It’s a word Easthope brought up himself during a phone interview this weekend with WLAA.
“My best friend Nate Mosher is the center on our team and he tore his ACL about two months ago,” Easthope explains. “He isn’t going to be playing football in college so his football days are over. And he’s worked just as hard as anyone and he didn’t get the chance to play his senior year. At least I will be playing football again at some point. So it’s a lot worse for Nate.”
See what we mean about being a great young man.
Easthope and Mosher, both three-year varsity starters at Pioneer, go way back – to the beginning of their football days. “He’s been my center for over 10 years,” Easthope says. “From little league football to Pioneer varsity we’ve been together.”
Now, unfortunately, they are together on the sidelines.
“One of my goals now is to help some of my fellow seniors on the team get recruited so they can keep playing football,” Easthope says. “I want to contribute to the team in any way I can.”
The Pioneers have struggled since losing their starting quarterback and one of their experienced team leaders. They are 0-3 including a 31-0 loss on Saturday at Monroe in an SEC Red Division game. Pioneer faces Ypsilanti and Dexter to finish off the regular season before starting the playoffs in a few weeks.
Easthope may have left the huddle, but he hasn’t left his teammates behind. One way he is helping is by being a mentor and coach to his replacement.
“Grant Nelson is a sophomore and he’s a stud,” Easthope says. “He’s really young and I’m trying to help him out and understand what’s going on out on the field and what the defense is trying to do. I just want to help him feel more comfortable and confident out there. I have high hopes for him. He’s going to be really good.”
Easthope, who suffered a ligament tear in his foot that fortunately won’t require surgery, knew it was serious right away. But he actually kept playing after it happened – for one play, anyway.
“It happened the play before I went down,” he said. “It was a designed quarterback run and I don’t really remember how it happened. I’m sure it twisted when I got hit. I tried to shake it off. I snapped the ball on the next play and when I tried to put my full weight on it, it felt like I had been shot and I went right down.”
Easthope, who also won’t be able to play basketball this winter, is now in a cast up to his knee and uses crutches to move around out of the pocket.
“I knew when I was on the ground it was over,” he says. “It was devastating. I am really disappointed I can’t play. I felt like this was the best team we’ve had since I’ve been here. And now I’m not a part of it. I am trying to keep things in perspective. This whole year has been crazy so this is just another challenge to overcome.”
The next time Easthope steps on the field will be at a very special place. And while they probably won’t be playing for a National Title, they will be helping mold some pretty special young men – again, isn’t that the goal of college athletics?
Easthope is signed, sealed and delivered to Harvard. While other schools showed great interest in him for his football skills, he just couldn’t imagine turning down Harvard especially when they offered a guaranteed roster spot on the football team.
“I’m very excited and I will be signing my letter of intent in December,” he says. “I had committed to Western Michigan at the start of the pandemic but once Harvard offered me the roster spot it was really a no-brainer. That’s such an incredible opportunity. I couldn’t turn it down.”
Harvard is getting one very good football player. And an even better person.