Former Basalt soccer star Cyrus Eaton winding up memorable run at Belmont | AspenTimes.com
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Former Basalt soccer star Cyrus Eaton winding up memorable run at Belmont

Nate Peterson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
John Eaton Former Basalt midfielder Cyrus Eaton (15) will play in his school-record 70th game Friday for Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.
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NASHVLLE, Tenn. ” Four years ago Cyrus Eaton was the long shot.

From a small high school in a small town on Colorado’s Western Slope, the former Basalt Longhorns co-captain simply wanted a chance to prove he could play Division I soccer.

He got it when Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., took a flyer on him, offering him a spot on its team and a partial scholarship.

Today, Eaton will break the school’s record for games played, a mark of 70 matches that is likely to stand for a long, long time.

Not too bad for a long shot.

“I feel more blessed than anything to have stayed healthy enough to earn a title like this,” wrote Eaton, a 5-foot-8 senior midfielder, in an e-mail to The Aspen Times before Friday’s match against Sun Conference foe Jacksonville. “From firsthand experience, staying healthy through all four seasons is not easy, and I had my fair share of injuries that I played with as well. Some were a lot harder to handle than others, but competing for four years really takes a toll on your body. When I look back on all of the aches and pains of the seasons, this honor helps me to feel like I really did do all that I could to stay healthy and fit so I could perform in every game ” except one ” of my college career.”

While Eaton credits his fitness for his streak, there’s no getting around that it was his talent ” honed during his years playing soccer on the Western Slope ” that initially earned him playing time for the Bruins.

He played in 16 games as a freshman, starting four. Since then, he hasn’t missed a game in the past three seasons ” a run that continues to marvel the coach who recruited him.

The talent and persistence is the same Eaton displayed while at Basalt, where he was a four-year letter winner, two-time league MVP, led 3A in total points as a senior and was the catalyst behind two runs to the state semifinals.

Coming out of Basalt, Eaton said his options were limited when it came to scholarship offers. He played catch-up in the recruiting process simply because he didn’t realize how difficult it was to get noticed by Division I coaches.

“I didn’t realize how important it was to be in touch with coaches long before my senior and junior year,” he wrote. “It was about Christmas time when I decided to send out my information to a lot of other schools. I wasn’t happy with the schools I was looking at and with little aid I wasn’t going to be able to afford it either. I was looking to go to the University of Pittsburgh, Hastings College in Nebraska, UNLV and Cleveland State University … none of which really excited me.”

Then came a call from Belmont head coach Earle Davidson in late January 2005. Davidson couldn’t offer any scholarship money, but he did promise Eaton the chance to play.

Some money became available in April, and after Eaton took a campus visit, his mind was made up.

Eaton admits he had a lot to learn to catch up to the speed of the Division I game, but he caught on quickly.

“In a lot of ways, it reminded me of my freshman year of high school,” he wrote. “I saw some of the players and felt intimidated by their size and strength. My mental speed, technique, and confidence with the soccer ball were my stronger points. Over the years I developed physically, which helped me even more to compete at the same level all around.

Eaton’s also proud of another streak: Being named to three consecutive Sun Conference All-Academic teams. It will likely be four after this season.

A biology major and chemistry minor who carries a 3.85 grade point average, Eaton isn’t sure yet what the future holds, but he plans to keep playing soccer.

“I’ll be in contact with a couple of different professional clubs through the remainder of this year and the spring, and hopefully I’ll be able to do a couple of tryouts or get accepted to the [United Soccer League] combine so I can get looked at by a couple coaches,” Eaton wrote.

If that doesn’t pan out, Eaton wrote that there’s plenty of other options, nearly all of which involve more schooling.

He has thought about being a chiropractor, a doctor, a physician’s assistant or even an athletic trainer. He has also considered pursuing a masters degree in sports administration at Belmont.

There’s also one more thing.

“I’ve also looked at the option of doing some mission work for awhile, too, and learning some language and culture,” he wrote. “There’s really a lot of maybes right now, and nothing for me is really ever certain, but I trust that in the next few years I’ll be able to find where God wants me.”

He’s certain there was a higher power pulling him in the direction of Tennessee. The Roaring Fork Valley will always be home, but Nashville has been a great place to spend four years.

“I came to school with the stereotype that Nashville was strictly cowboy boots and country music, but I quickly found out it’s really a lot more diverse than almost anywhere else I have ever been,” he wrote. “Sure, there are a lot of things I miss from the mountains that you can’t get anywhere else than back home, but I have enjoyed Nashville a lot more than I thought I would. I do miss a lot of the outdoor activities I loved back home, but I think soccer kept me busy enough that I didn’t give myself enough time to miss them.”

More than anything, though, Eaton said Nashville remains a special place for the relationships that he formed at Belmont. He cherishes those more than any record.

“I feel I have met a lot of people at Belmont who have really influenced me as a person and I am grateful for them and what they helped me to accomplish,” he wrote. “The most important thing I think I have learned is that college is all about building relationships. Sure, it’s a means to earning and education and starting a new career, but a lot of times your plans change and the people you meet along the way are the people who you will remember for the rest of your life.”

npeterson@aspentimes.com


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