When you think of outstanding quarterbacks that have come through the University of Maine’s football program, Jake Eaton has to be at or near the top of the list.
A big reason why: Wins and losses. And it’s one of many reasons Eaton is being inducted into UMaine’s Sports Hall of Fame on Friday night, along with five other former Black Bear athletes.
Eaton led the Black Bears to 28 victories in his four years in Orono, the most of any quarterback in the program’s history.
He also led UMaine to the first NCAA postseason victory in the program’s history, a 14-10 victory over McNeese State in 2001, a game nobody expected the Black Bears to win, except themselves.
“That was the thing about our team, we were so tough mentally and physically,” Eaton said. “We weren’t intimidated by anybody.”
That team also put UMaine’s football program back in the national limelight.
“Just being with the guys, we really had a special group, and it was a special time,” Eaton said. “We kind of just wanted to be that group to bring Maine back on the map.”
UMaine also triumphed in the NCAA playoffs over Appalachian State Eaton’s senior year, but he did not play because of an injury.
The 2001 Black Bears earned a share of the 2001 Atlantic 10 championship with Hofstra, Villanova and William and Mary en route to the program’s first NCAA postseason berth since 1989.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears subsequently trekked to Lake Charles, Louisiana, and upset McNeese State before falling in the following round to Northern Iowa in a game in which Eaton set six UMaine playoff passing records.
The following year, UMaine again shared the Atlantic 10 title, this time with Northeastern, and despite Eaton being out with an injury, the Black Bears went on the road and defeated Appalachian State in the NCAA playoffs.
The Black Bears fell to Georgia State in their following game.
In addition to his 28 victories, Eaton set a team record for completion percentage (65.9) as a sophomore.
The native of Rutland, Vermont, would finish his career with 58 touchdown passes and 19 rushing touchdowns, success he attributes to longtime coach Cosgrove.
“He’s the reason I went to Maine,” Eaton said. “He led by example … [and] our strengths were toughness, hard work, and that came from [Cosgrove].
“He means the world to me,” he added.
Eaton’s 58 touchdown passes rank him fourth all-time in the history of the program, and his 7,145 passing yards have him fourth in Black Bear history.
“It’s a recognition that’s long overdue,” Cosgrove said.
Eaton’s career completion percentage (59.5) has him third on the Black Bears’ all-time list.
Eaton spent some time playing in Arena football, and he has returned to Rutland, where he coaches boys basketball and serves as an athletic administrator at nearby Proctor High School. His teams have won back-to-back state championships.
Follow Ryan McLaughlin on Twitter at @rmclaughlin23.