When Hawks head football coach Rodney Armes says Jay Eastridge is a “very tough kid who never misses a practice,” he’s not just blowing smoke.
The senior offensive tackle/defensive end has missed only one gridiron practice in his high school career.
“I had an ingrown toenail, and during practice, half of my nail ripped off, so I missed one practice,” recalled the son of Pat and Donetta Eastridge of Sonora.
He’s so adamant about attending those workout sessions because he knows how important they are.
“You’ve got to know the playbook inside out to do your best, and you’ve got to be there to learn,” the 17-year-old said.
At 5-10, 200 pounds, he relies on what he calls, “explosion,” getting the jump on the opponent, regardless of which side of the line of scrimmage he's playing.
“I think on offense I have the advantage, even when playing against bigger opponents, because I know the snap count, and as a result, I can pop off the line under my opponent and keep my legs driving until he’s out of the play.”
Every so often, he also realizes an offensive lineman's dream, to “pancake” his opponent — knock him flat on the ground.
“That really pumps me up," he admitted.
Eastridge has in his arsenal a “money” play where he and the guard both pull and clear the way for a running back.
“We can almost guarantee 10 yards on that play,” he said.
Having played the sport since fourth grade, Eastridge has been on the varsity squad since his sophomore year. With that experience, he is able to read defense and communicate with his teammates.
“For instance, if I see a linebacker might stunt, I’ll point him out to make sure he's covered,” he said. “I always think of what the defense is doing as they line up and then what I must do to help out with the blocking.”
On defense, Eastridge has made 34 tackles this season, 27 of them solo.
“Defensive ends have a very difficult job because they are being asked to turn plays in and also not widen the hole a back can run through,” said Kelly Sandidge, assistant coach. “Defensive ends don't necessarily get all the tackles because a lot of times they are turning the ball carrier back toward the linebackers; Jay does this very well.”
“If I let him get to the outside, all that’s left is the cornerback, so if a player is blocking me, I'll try to drive him back into the hole, hold him up, while looking for the ball carrier,” Eastridge said.
That effort requires a lot of stamina and strength which Eastridge builds by working out with weights three days a week in the summer and in a class during school.
Although he bench presses 205 pounds, he said probably the most effective weight exercise for him is the “power clean” where in one motion he picks up the weight from the floor and lifts it to his chest.
“That uses all the muscles,” he acknowledged.
“Jay is a very hard worker who has a great work ethic,” Armes said. “His intelligence is a great asset also; he thinks the game and seems to be a step ahead because of it.”
The coach witnessed Eastridge’s toughness last season.
“His kneecap got dislocated during practice and it popped back into place,” Armes said. “He only sat out a few plays and was right back in there.”
Carrying straight A’s in the classroom, Eastridge, who also plays first base for the Hawks, intends to continue his quest to become a physical education teacher. He also would like to play college football.
“Jay is also a great leader and will definitely be able to play at the next level if he so chooses,” predicted his coach. “He is currently being looked at by Campbellsville University.”