In 2019, junior Collin Eaddy, running back on the University football team, was named as a second-team All-Ivy League selection. He had carried 159 times for 799 yards and 12 touchdowns, led the Ivy League in rushing touchdowns, and had at least one rushing touchdown in eight games.
As a junior, Eaddy was a force on the team. With one season left, emotions were riding high and the path ahead for him abounded with uncertainty due to COVID-19.
Joining several other Princeton athletes, Eaddy decided to take a leave of absence after the Ivy League made the decision to cancel all sports through January 2021.
Currently, he is working full-time, though remotely, for J.G. Petrucci, a commercial real estate firm in Asbury Park, N.J. His role involves consulting, research, and breaking down commercial and residential real estate trends across different areas in the United States and assessing each for their economic viability.
Eaddy seems optimistic about his year off.
“My job keeps me pretty busy. I honestly see it as a good opportunity for myself because I get some full-time job experience. And while I obviously miss football, it’s kind of nice to get to take care of my body and not get beat up, so to speak. Plus, I get to train like a pro athlete because after I’m done with work, I have the rest of the day to myself,” he explained.
But before Eaddy started working in real estate, he was playing football at Princeton. And before he played the sport, his father did. In fact, Eaddy’s father played professional football — four years at Temple University and a stint with the Cowboys.
Eaddy himself started playing at the age of five. He reassured me that his father never forced him to follow his footsteps.
“It was just something I naturally gravitated towards.” Once he did start playing, however, his parents were entirely supportive. “They took me everywhere I needed to go. Mom was very much a ‘team mom’ — the mom that was bringing us oranges and snacks during halftime, that sort of thing.”
In high school, Eaddy played running back for varsity three years straight. During this time, he was awarded the Greater Neuse River Conference Offensive Player of the Year twice and earned second-team all-state honors in 2016.
“I could’ve ended up in a lot of places. But I think I ended up right where I needed to be,” he stated proudly.
Eaddy broke a bone in his foot playing football in high school.
“It was kind of like one of those things where I didn’t realize it was broken. I was just kind of like, ‘Oh, well this is nagging.’ Like, it hurts, but I didn't really think about it and I kept playing, and I played to the point that the bone actually died. And so, after the season, they had to take the bone out of my foot.”
At this point in his story, he notices the expression on my face. Laughing, he admits, “That’s usually the reaction I get.”
Besides playing football, Eaddy wrote for the school newspaper and actively engaged in volunteer work. He might not be playing football at the moment, and he doesn’t write for a paper anymore, but Eaddy still loves to volunteer.
Right now, when he’s not working or training, he’s volunteering at the virtual learning center at his church, working with approximately 40 children from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in the mornings.
“It was just something a friend had asked me if I was interested in and I wasn’t sure because I’m not really huge on kids,” he admitted.
But after finding out that the center had no male volunteers, Eaddy decided to step up and in the process, discovered something far more valuable.
“Come to find out, I really love working with kids,” he laughs. “I didn’t think I would, but I just love them. They’re so innocent and so full of energy, and I’ve always got a smile on my face.”
Coming out of high school, Eaddy was considering a number of different colleges. His father, having played against the football team, knew Princeton well, but Eaddy was a different story.
“I didn’t even know what Princeton was until the beginning of my senior year. I knew Harvard, I knew Yale,” he claimed. “But oddly enough, I’d never heard of Princeton.”
But one campus visit later, and Eaddy was sold. “My gut never lies to me. I'd sat in many rooms with many coaches and it just didn’t sit right. But I’ve never once sat with [Head] Coach [Bob] Surace [’90] and felt uneasy.”
Eaddy spoke highly of Surace. It’s clear that the relationship they share is one built on genuine adoration for one another. In fact, when Eaddy was facing personal challenges during his first year, Eaddy could be found in Surace’s office every Friday.
“I was going through a really rough time, and I remember I told him at some point at the end of the season that I was depleted — I was like, ‘Coach, I just need some time away from football.’ And that entire spring semester, I didn’t play at all. Instead, we would just sit in his office every Friday and talk,” he explained.
“There are a lot of places where the coaches are not going to take the time to do that with you. And a lot of places where they say they will, but their actions don't line up with their words,” Eaddy claimed. “But I knew from just sitting in a room [with Surace]. I knew he was genuine. And it's held true to this day.”
Perhaps the only thing Eaddy talks about with even more affection than he talks about his coach are his teammates — or the “Brotherhood,” as he refers to it. They’re “all in this together” quite literally, as approximately 20 of the 30 players in Eaddy’s class are taking leaves of absence. Eaddy credits his own to his teammates.
“For me, personally, I made my decision based on what the majority of the other guys wanted to do. We came in together, we want to go out together. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs at Princeton, and it just didn’t make sense not to finish what I started with anyone except for the people that have been with me since the very beginning,” Eaddy explained, reflecting on his decision to take a leave of absence.
“It’s more than just the games. We spend our summers together. We get apartments and live together. We ride to practice every morning together. There’s just so much chemistry and camaraderie, and I’ve really missed them.”
When Eaddy arrived at Princeton as a first-year student, he was quick to excel. As the only first-year on Princeton’s offense to actually play in the Ivy League, Eaddy went up against players that far outranked him in age and accomplishment.
“It was a great opportunity, but it was still kind of scary. I had just barely turned 18, and some of the guys I played with were 23, 24 — and some of them were married. They were grown men,” he laughed.
If Eaddy was intimidated, it didn't translate into his play — evident by the long list of accolades he’s garnered over his time at Princeton. Earning the Donold B. Lourie Award as Princeton's top offensive first-year, he was responsible for a 32-yard touchdown in a 52–17 win at Harvard, the Crimson's worst home Ivy loss in 50 years. In his sophomore year, he was named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week after rushing 25 times for 226 yards and scoring three touchdowns at Yale.
“It was the game of a lifetime. I think it made a record in the history of Princeton football,” he proudly claimed.
It did — it was the fifth most single-game yard in all of Princeton’s program history. He earned an All-Ivy League honorable mention after ranking eighth in the Ivy League in his sophomore year.
His favorite football moment?
Winning the Ivy League championship his sophomore year.
“I got a really big hug from Coach.”
Academically, the transition was a bit harder.
“It was a little bit of a shock. My high school was a good high school, but I don't think I was prepared for what Princeton threw at me. I think the biggest challenge for me was definitely writing, but even just the academics in general can get really hard because you eventually realize, like, you can’t get by with not studying. I tried it, and it didn't turn out so well. So I would say it’s definitely not easy, but it is one of those things where you learn to adjust. At least, when I leave Princeton, I think I’ll be well prepared professionally because I’ve already been under that duress.”
Like most other athletes, Eaddy was disappointed to hear about the Ivy League cancellation.
“I mean, I was expecting it, but when the time came, my heart still dropped,” he explained.
Despite enjoying his year off, Eaddy still has the occasional regret.
“It’s not easy. It’s really hard when I turn the TV on on Saturday and I'm watching college football. Because like, dang, I should be doing the same thing. I miss football. So, so much. I'm just trying to see the bright side of it, stay optimistic and trust the process.”
“Our coach was really understanding. I think the day after it happened, we were on a team Zoom. And he was like, ‘Guys, take the week off. Just stay in the moment and really allow yourself to feel what you feel. Don’t sweep it under the rug. And this time next year, when it's time to play again, you guys will remember this feeling and it'll be so much more satisfying and exciting because of it,’” Eaddy stated.
“My days can get monotonous. I volunteer, I work, I work out. Maybe if I have time, I’ll see a friend. Then, I go to sleep and do the same thing again next morning. But I also understand that doing the same thing over and over again will pay off at the end. So, I’m just going to stick to grinding things out, and come next season, I’m confident I’ll be better for it.”