It’s unlikely that Gunnar Eaton will be an all-conference or all-state selection in Kentucky. If he is, Eaton’s selection will probably be made on sentimental grounds, and there would be few people who would argue with such a selection.
That’s because the sheer fact that Eaton, a Barren County linebacker, is even on the football field is a near miracle in itself. The senior is still building up his fitness following a battle with Stage 3 testicular cancer, a disease that has forced him to undergo five significant surgical procedures and four rounds of chemotherapy. As reported in this excellent story from the Bowling Green Daily News, Eaton lost 40 pounds in the process of that treatment, and he spent the team’s entire summer training camp running and cross training on his own, building up his fitness until it was safe for him to return to training with his teammates.
Not that Eaton thinks anyone should be making a big deal about his return. He’s just happy he made it back on the field.
“Football was my goal,” Eaton told the Daily News. “Football was the thing where I’d sit in the hospital and say, ‘I cannot wait to be in those pads.’ Football is what I went for. …
“Now that I’m back here, it’s kind of rewarding, like I did it. And now that I did this I can do whatever I want. There’s nothing I can’t do. If I can have part of my lung removed and be hitting people, then I can do anything.”
That includes earning near perfect grades. The senior said he finally lost his perfect 4.0 GPA when he earned his first B while undergoing chemotherapy. The class that bumped him down? AP Calculus.
That will come in handy if Eaton does follow through on his initial plan to attend Vanderbilt Medical School after he graduates from college. For now, the recently crowned Homecoming King is more focused on getting back to hitting his teammates when he’s not hitting the books.
“There was just so much pent-up anxiety … ,” he said. “That first play I was going to light it up. I’d been waiting on that first play for six or seven months.”