For a Reason: Caleb Eagans
Contributor / Will Stone
It took one phone call for Caleb Eagans’ life to change. One moment the gifted high school athlete who ultimately continued his track and football careers at Texas A&M had a nice life built for himself, the next it seemed like the walls were crumbling.
“I remember my dad calling me. He told me my mom had cancer,” he said.
He got the call the day before his first track meet as an Aggie, and at the time, the words “Stage IV pancreatic cancer” were foreign to him.
“I knew cancer was bad, but I didn’t really understand the severity of what my mom had,” he said.
In no uncertain terms, his father laid it out for him — Eagans’ mother had, at best, two years to live.
To go from preparing for his first NCAA track meet to preparing to see his mother leave his life was an unexpected adjustment Eagans had to make.
“We tried everything in the world to try and get her back to Stage III, Stage II, and maybe someday even remission, but she never got better,” he said.
On September 16, 2015, roughly 6 months after the diagnosis, Eagans’ father called and said he would be coming to visit him at Texas A&M. While not a normal occurrence, College Station is just 70 miles from Eagans’ home so his father coming for a visit didn’t trigger much.
“I thought he was just going to come up and maybe take me out to eat and spend time with me,” he said.
The visit was not just the normal visit Eagans had expected. “When my dad came to visit me, both of my aunts came with him, so I knew something was wrong,” he said.
That day, he found out that his mother had passed away.
To make matters worse, Eagans came down with an illness that derailed his training. He lost 10 pounds of muscle from being sidelined with his illness.
Along with his sickness, he now had new responsibilities on his shoulders. Being the only child in a family where his mother bore the weight of most of the tasks, he had to start helping out his dad with day-to-day tasks — putting his athletic career on hold.
When the time came for his return to A&M, adjusting to life without his mother was difficult. Not many knew of the tragedy he and his family had faced, but there were a few individuals that helped him along the way.
“There were a couple coaches [at A&M] that understood what I was going through,” he said. “It was hard coming to practice everyday knowing that my mom had died, but the head girls’ track coach, Coach Anderson, had really helped me along with Coach Banks, my strength coach.”
During that return to school, the football coaches approached Eagans and informed him that he didn’t need to participate in both track and football. Since he was originally recruited for track, the football staff deferred to them.
But later a groin injury and other trials plagued him, leaving him sidelined once again.
In the summer of 2016, Eagans received the news that he would not be on the track team at Texas A&M going forward.
“At that time, it felt like track was the only thing really connecting me to my mom,” he said.
All the trips to meets, all the award banquets, and all the memories accrued over the years with his mother felt fractured with his exit from track.
Though football was still on the table, the time away from school and the struggles Eagans and his father were facing led them to decide it’d be best to dedicate his time to academics and succeeding off the field before getting back on it.
As if not enough wrenches had been thrown into Eagans’ situation, the power plant his dad had been working at shut down, leaving his father unemployed.
“It felt like a lot was hitting us at once,” he said.
But it brought the two closer. As the two struggled in their own areas, Eagans said they were able to encourage each other, pushing one another to keep the faith and trust in God’s plan.
Part of that plan would be for Eagans to ask Texas A&M’s athletic department for a release from the program, seeking a transfer to play at a different school come the end of this upcoming semester.
Eagans mother told him, prior to her death, that she wanted him to get his degree at A&M, which is exactly what he will do in May of 2018. The added bonus of graduating, he will be immediately eligible to play wherever he decides to transfer.
His playing career aside, Eagans has found solace in his experience, understanding that others may be going through their own hardships and that he can play a role in helping them through their tough times.
He also learned a valuable lesson watching his mother’s fight with cancer. “I always think about how my mom lived a horrible last couple of months of her life, but you’d never guess it by the way she was so positive, encouraging, and believed the best would happen,” he said. “Today, she’s my biggest motivation and encouragement because she was a fighter until her last breath. She withstood a lot of pain, and I can honestly say she never gave up.”
Today, Eagans and his father both are going through new beginnings. Eagans is preparing for his departure from A&M to another undetermined school where he will have two years of athletic eligibility left thanks to a waiver he’ll receive from the NCAA. Eagan’s father, once jobless, is now employed by the Texas Department of Transportation.
Whether it be his football career, his relationships with others, or graduating with honors, Eagans will continue creating his path in his mother’s memory