Caleb Eagans has learned first hand that in life the route you are running can take a sudden turn in a direction that creates a feeling of helplessness. In those times we are reminded that we are not in control and we must step back and let Jesus take the wheel. Eagans never expected to be playing at UMHB, but yet here he is, ready to make an impact for the Crusaders.
Six years after he first suited up at Texas A&M competing within the Power 5 college level, Eagans is now one of UMHB’s top talents at the wide receiver position. He joins a group of D1-caliber wideouts, players such as Romello Cook, Brandon Jordan and KJ Miller. His speed is remarkable. Throughout the team’s fall scrimmages, Eagans had the most receptions and an extremely high targets-to-completions rate. In the spring game that was played on November 7th he had impressive trips up the field moving the offense and was the leading receiver in receptions.
Eagans’ story begins just over an hour from Belton in the dot-on-the-map town of Jewett, Texas. Population: 1,167. He was an all-round athlete, the kind of kid that excelled at whatever he put his hands on. He lettered in four sports at Leon High School; baseball, basketball, football, and track. But it was basketball that caught his attention early on.
“I thought that I was going to go to college to play basketball,” remembers Eagans. “I did have some offers, I had a lot of looks, but it was mostly from football and track, so I ended up going that route.”
And off he went, choosing to sign with Texas A&M on a track scholarship, after putting together a senior campaign which concluded with him being named the Male Track Athlete of the Year for the state of Texas. Not to mention he was an academic all-state selection on three occasions. He was, and obviously still is, the kind of person, the kind of player, every school wants in their program.
Eagans ran track and walked onto the football team in 2014 as a returner and slot wide receiver. Soon, he was competing for one of the country’s top track and field programs, and for a football team that constantly had pro scouts at practice and film crews at their games. For someone who grew up in a small town, College Station, Kyle Field, and Texas A&M was a big opportunity.
“It was a really great experience. As a matter of fact, they ended up recruiting me and getting me on the football team right after Mike Evans and Johnny Manziel had left. Coach Sumlin was one of the top recruiters at that time. Just to see the guys that I came in with, Myles Garrett, No. 1 pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, Armani Watts, plays for the Chiefs right now, Speedy Noil, Donovan Wilson for the Cowboys. I came in with guys like that. For me it was a really cool experience to compete with those guys everyday and to run track at a National Championship caliber program and play football in the SEC coming from a small town.”
Competing with that NFL talent everyday in practice pushed Eagans even harder, and straight into a starting role…almost.
Just before his second year with reps being in the rotation at slot receiver and having a starting job on kickoff return with Speedy Noil, in February of 2015, He and his family were dealt a harsh blow. His mother, Danna, was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. At first doctors had told them she had close to two years to live. But by September, she had passed away. Eagans remembers that time as being rough, and leaving him unsettled, unsure of his faith and what he should do next in life. His mom was, and had always been his biggest fan.
“My mom was definitely my biggest supporter, she loved sports, she played sports herself,” remembers Eagans. “She never missed anything. For me, having her always there, taking pictures and videos with the camera, and then her not even being in the stands affected me a lot. Going into my second year of football was really good for me, I was in the rotation with a lot of great players, I was going to be a kickoff and punt returner, everyone was talking about my speed, then all of a sudden I had to walk away from football, leave the school for a bit and go back home for a little while.”
It was at that point that Eagans reached a crossroads. He had lost his love for sports,and was not sure when, if ever, that passion would return.
“I got behind, more so mentally and emotionally,” said Eagans as he looked back. “I kind of lost my love for sports completely. For me it was really a grind, I felt like nobody knew where I was coming from because there was nobody my age who had lost their mom, or even had a mom that was as big of an influence as she was on me. So I had to try to get out of that on my own.”
But it was ultimately his mom that gave him the drive to return to the field, and to school. It was her dream for him to graduate college, and Eagans wasn’t going to let her down. The return to football, though, was gradual.
“It would be little stuff,” says Eagans on what brought back his passion for sports. “It got to the point, slowly, where I could go to the rec and play pickup throw a football. I ended up joining an intramural league for football. Playing all those things, people kept saying how good I was. Guys who were in the NFL and some of the guys I played with would check on me to see how I was doing. One of my strength coaches at Texas A&M, Coach Vernon Banks kept me encouraged. Really it was just me sitting there reflecting, thinking, I got to get back to it. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be a long road, but eventually you’re going to get there.”
He did get back to the high level he was previously at, and his talent took him to East Central University. When he walked onto the campus in Ada, Oklahoma, he was stronger, mentally, emotionally and spiritually than he had ever been before. Following his mom’s death, he remembers losing a little bit of his strong Christian faith, asking God the question “why?”.
“There was a point in time when my mom was going through chemo treatments, and all that, we had gotten word early on that she only had maybe two years to live. With my faith, I was confident she would go into remission. I was praying, our whole community was praying because everyone knew my mom. I kept thinking she was going to make it, everything would be fine. When that didn’t happen, I lost a little bit of my faith because you put everything into something and then it didn’t work out. And you start to think, man, does praying even mean anything? For me, it was reading scripture and really believing that things happen for a reason. God is not going to do something that is going to harm us, it is always going to be for our best benefit to help us later in life.”
It was certainly hard to see what God had next for Eagans, but he trusted the Lord’s plan, and things slowly began to click. As a wide receiver and returner on the football team, which played at the division two level, Eagans saw the field in seven games even though he came into the program late. As a long jumper and sprinter in track, he broke the school long jump record which was set by NFL Seattle Seahawks wide-receiver David Moore. But more important were those who came to watch Eagans. All 32 scouts came to East Central’s practices that season and many of them talked to Eagans personally on the field. They came with clipboards and notebooks. They came to watch the 5’9 two sport star blow by defensive backs, and jump further than they’d seen anyone jump before. It was at that point that Eagans knew he had a legitimate shot at reaching the highest level of football, the NFL.
“I think the biggest step was whenever I had the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants come talk to me,” said Eagans.”It was really a surreal moment for me. They took all the measurements, gave me basically a test to see where I stood with my IQ, and got some personal information from me. It was basically like an interview. At practice there was always a scout out there watching me at every drill I would go to.”
But then adversity struck once again. Right before East Central was set to kick off its season, Eagans’ last year of college football after securing being the WR1, he tore a groin and suffered two sports hernias, which led to surgery, yet another season that he was not out on the field.
But as you probably can decipher, that wasn’t the end of Eagans’ college football career. It could’ve been, but with his attitude and work ethic, he found a way to recover, in time to begin working out for the 2020 season. The question was, where would he go? He had decided to part ways with East Central.
TCU heavily pursued him, The receiver Coach Rusty Burns and as his former quarterback at Texas A&M, Kenny Hill, was the Horned Frogs’ assistant quarterbacks coach reached out to him. However, he would be forced to spend a season on the bench due to NCAA transfer rules. That would be a year of eligibility he did not have. So he couldn’t go to a D1 school, and he knew he wanted somewhere close to home, somewhere where he could compete for a conference and national championship. That was when he came across UMHB.
“There was no way I thought I was going to go to UMHB,” says Eagans looking back. “I told a friend that I was transferring and he talked about me coming to UMHB. He said, ‘If you come here, you’ll definitely help us win a national championship’. I was at the point in my career, having the chance to play in the NFL, I wasn’t concerned with myself because I can play anywhere. At the end of the day, I wanted to be surrounded by winners. I thought, ‘What’s the best possible place for me to go to win a national championship?’
That “friend” was Aaron Sims, a fleet-footed returner and receiver for the Cru who had known Eagans since high school, when they would race in track. Everything was pointing towards UMHB for Eagans. He would have the chance to win, be about an hour from home, and finish his college career under a great coaching staff.
“Coach Fred, I looked into his story, he’s a great coach, but an even better man,” said Eagans. “I really got that ‘home’ feeling when I was around him. I kept praying about a place to go. As soon as I shook hands with Coach Fred, I knew this is where I had to be.”
Eagans has meshed well with the UMHB offense, as his maturity and leadership skills prove valuable. He is the only known college football player in the history of college football at any level to be pursuing his second master’s degree with a year of eligibility left within his 10th semester. While his goal was to go into the 2021 NFL draft, he decided to play this spring for the Cru (which won’t count against his eligibility) as well as in the fall, before declaring for the 2022 Draft.Standing at just 5’9, it is easy to miss Eagans when the offense sets up. But as soon as the ball is snapped, he springs into action. He has a good body frame in correlation to his height and size is something he knows is important playing at the next level. You can’t understand how fast Eagans runs until you’ve seen it in person. The other week, he ran a handtimed 4.33 40-yard dash. To give you an idea of how fast that is, last year the fastest at the NFL Combine 40 yard dash was an official time of 4.28 seconds set by Henry Ruggs who played at the University of Alabama after months of training. Yes, you read that right. Eagans is a mere .05-.09 seconds off of Henry Ruggs’ record with no combine training. Even more so impressive Eagans has recorded running an official 4.28 before. The NFL 40 record is set by John Ross at 4.22 who was trained by Gary Cablayan who has also trained Eagans and would be his speed coach from California for the 2022 NFL Draft.
ASC defensive backs should be scared. UMHB has a potential future NFL record holder on their hands. Eagans is known to not just be the fastest player in his conference, but one of the fastest players in all of college football at any level.
Editor’s Note: Eagans has documented his journey so far at UMHB, and will continue to do so for NFL Draft Blitz. To read his recent journals, click here.