Meech’ Making Most Of Senior Season

David Morrison

By David MorrisonThe Daily Northwestern

When senior linebacker Demetrius Eaton first joined the Wildcats, he wondered if his lifelong nickname, “Meech,” would catch on with his new teammates.

“I wasn’t going to say anything, just to see if anybody knew my nickname,” Eaton said. “To my surprise, people were like, ‘Do they call you Meech?'”

After senior captain Nick Roach was lost for the season with a broken leg against Michigan State, it didn’t take long for people to figure out a new name for Eaton: captain.

“He’s an excellent choice,” junior linebacker Adam Kadela said.

Eaton came into his senior season with only two collegiate starts. He spent the majority of his first three years at Northwestern as a backup linebacker and special teams player.

This year, he’s the Cats’ starting outside linebacker, manning the strong side and recording 44 tackles and two sacks in the first 10 games.

He also is no stranger to a three-point stance, as the NU defense cycles him in and out of the defensive line in its various sets.

Eaton also played almost exclusively at defensive end last season.

“He’s matured as a player and learned a lot of different positions,” Kadela said. “He’s got a lot on his plate.”

When Roach went down, he left a leadership void on a young defense that regularly starts only three seniors.

Eaton said he took it upon himself to fill that void immediately.

“I was trying to keep everybody focused,” he said. “There are a lot of young guys who don’t really know how to respond to that, and I was just trying to keep everybody together.”

Since then, he’s used his personality to bring a new approach to the captaincy.

During his time as an underclassman, Eaton looked to the older players for guidance. He said he tries to pattern his game after this principle.

“That’s the aim of all the linebackers: We want to keep the linebackers the core of the defense, the strongest aspect of the whole defense,” Eaton said.

While Roach is more subdued on the field, Eaton is content to let his mouth do the talking along with his play.

“He’s a vocal leader, one of the few that we have,” linebackers coach Randy Bates said. “That has helped our young guys out there, because they hear him getting fired up and that gets them fired up.”

Bates said Eaton brings a lot of emotion to the field and reminds him of another linebacker in that regard: coach Pat Fitzgerald.

But while Eaton is skilled at firing up a group of players, he also is good at cracking them up.

Eaton is considered by his teammates to be one of the funniest players on the team.

“Football is all about fun,” he said. “You don’t have to be serious all the time.”

Eaton said his brand of comedy is based on spontaneity, and he never plans things out ahead of time.

“It’s just my humor. I don’t really have any jokes,” he said. “My improv is excellent.”

While Eaton has had to wait his turn for a long time, NU is counting on his steady hand in the next two weeks as it closes out the season and Eaton closes out his collegiate career.

It’s a job that Bates said comes naturally.

“He’s always upbeat and positive, so it wasn’t hard for him to step in and (be a leader),” Bates said. “Up until Nick got hurt, he let him do that, but he’s got great qualities as far as being a leader.”

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