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By Craig Sachson

Trust can be an easy talking point inside locker rooms, but it doesn’t always appear on the field.

Last Saturday, tied 28-all in the final minutes of a Top-25 showdown, Bob Surace faced a 4th-and-1 decision inside his own territory. The four-time National Coach of the Year finalist has proven to be an analytics-friends, aggressive leader, but this call required more than just statistical backing. It required trust.

“Coach Surace puts his trust in the guys,” senior running back and co-captain Collin Eaddy said.

“We have senior leaders who have been in tight games. We needed that one yard, and Coach trusted us to get it.”

He trusted a veteran offensive line to hold the line and a senior quarterback to get the play started. Above all, he trusted the guy who would get the ball. Having seen his star back rush for more than 2,000 yards in his career, Surace believed Eaddy would get the one Princeton needed.

That trust was rewarded. Again.

• • •

If you told Eaddy 7-8 years ago that he would be one of seven Princeton running backs to break the 2,000-yard barrier, he would have been confused. It wouldn’t have been because of self-doubt, though.

“I had never heard of Princeton until the end of my junior year,” Eaddy said. “My recruiting started later than most. My dad played at Temple University, and he was a high school teammate with (former Princeton captain) Matthew Whalen ’88. Coach [Sean] Gleeson recruited me, and when I came here on my visit, it blew me away.”

While it took him a long time to learn about Princeton, Tiger fans learned about Eaddy very quickly. He was named the team’s Top Offensive Freshman after rushing for 376 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2017, and even though he was still learning the deep offensive playbook, he felt like he could make an impact within a potentially scary 2018 offense.

With All-Ivy tailback Charlie Volker and Ivy Player of the Year John Lovett handling most of the rushing duties, Eaddy spent much of the first eight weeks of that perfect season providing depth for the offense. As the team prepared for Yale, however, an injury to Volker thrust Eaddy into a starting role against Princeton’s most historic rival.

Eaddy didn’t waste any time making an impression. Literally, he didn’t waste a moment. He took the first carry of the game, an inside zone to the right side of the “people eaters” (as he calls his offensive line), fended off a pair of tackle attempts, sprinted towards the left sideline and won a footrace over the final 50 yards for the score.

The next play from scrimmage would be an interception from Eaddy’s classmate—and current roommate—Jeremiah Tyler, which gave the Tigers the ball at the Yale 17. Not wanting to mess with a winning formula, Lovett handed the ball again to Eaddy, who sprinted past four Yale defenders off the left side of the line for another score.

Two plays, 92 yards, two touchdowns, 54 seconds. Whoa.

“It all happened so fast,” said Eaddy, who would go on to rush for 266 yards and three touchdowns in a wild 59-43 win that clinched the Ivy League championship. “The first one, that lane opened up, and I realized I could just go. After the second one, I was just in shock.”

Three years after learning about the nation’s oldest college football program, Eaddy now represented its future.

• • •

Eaddy enjoyed scoring touchdowns so much that he led the Ivy League with 12 rushing scores in 2019. He posted a career-best 799 yards on the season and earned second-team All-Ivy League honors. The Tigers went 8-2, a season that would have been the career highlight for many who wore Orange and Black in the past.

For Eaddy, it just left him hungrier.

“There is a new standard for us now,” he said. “8-2 was a good season, but we had experienced a great season. This team is unique. The highest standard is what we strive for. The younger guys are seeing what that standard is.”

Eaddy recognized his own areas that needed to grow. He has shown the speed to beat opponents in the open field multiple times — just ask the Yale defenders from that 2018 afternoon — but he also knew there would be 4th-and-1 situations that called for something different. He put added focus on weight training, which showed itself when he broke free from two Columbia defenders for a game-clinching touchdown two weeks ago. But strength training was just a piece of the puzzle.

“I’ve worked on coordination, and the cognitive aspect in training,” Eaddy said. “I’ve put in the time on the agility and speed work, and I know I need to be able to react to what happens in the game.”

His work has not only made him a leader on the field, but it earned him enough respect in the locker room to be voted a co-captain before the season.

“Collin emerged as a terrific running back early in his career,” Surace said. “However, he is much more than the incredible statistics and highlight videos. He has grown into one of the most respected leaders I’ve coached.”

Eaddy recognized the value of leadership during the perfect 2018 season, how the seniors played for each other and developed a culture where everybody followed their lead. He is seeing similar aspects of that culture right now.

“This team is special,” he said. “This group has great chemistry. We’ve been through a lot. A lot of guys put their lives on hold to come back here for this season. I love these guys. It was sad not having last year together, but we’re getting another chance. There is a great culture here.”

That culture is one that celebrates each other’s successes more than one’s own. But in Eaddy’s case, when he became Princeton’s seventh back in school history to rush for more than 2,000 yards — a feat that earned him accolades from both present and past teammates, some of whom are now playing in the NFL — he did allow himself a moment of reflection.

“I didn’t know until the guys told me the next day,” he said. “It’s we over me, as we say in the locker room. But after I heard from so many people, I took a moment to reflect. I work hard, and I try to do everything the right way. It’s special, something I can show my kids someday when we come back for a game.”

That’s one part of his future he can be excited about. Another is a potential career in commercial real estate, which he got a taste of while working for former Tiger Jim Petrucci ’86. But for this sociology major, the future that matters most begins this Saturday, as he begins his final sprint through an Ivy League schedule.

“These are the ones that matter the most,” he said.


december, 2022