Started from the bottom, now he’s here

His childhood shapes the way redshirt senior Easop Winston Jr. fights for greatness

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Started from the bottom, now he’s here

Redshirt senior Easop Winston Jr. goes in for the touch down against Stanford on Saturday afternoon at Martin Stadium.

Redshirt senior Easop Winston Jr. goes in for the touch down against Stanford on Saturday afternoon at Martin Stadium.

CJ HILGAERTNER

Redshirt senior Easop Winston Jr. goes in for the touch down against Stanford on Saturday afternoon at Martin Stadium.

CJ HILGAERTNER

CJ HILGAERTNER

Redshirt senior Easop Winston Jr. goes in for the touch down against Stanford on Saturday afternoon at Martin Stadium.

SAM GRANT, Evergreen reporter

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With the deadline to commit to a school in just days, Easop Winston Jr. was ready to give up on his dreams of playing college football at a Power-5 school.

Easop was committed to Eastern Michigan, where the coach told him he would not be wanted by any serious Power-5 team, let alone any other team, his mom Renee Winston said.

More than 100 people from California attended WSU football’s matchup against Cal just for Easop because he lived in the bay area as a child.

With the Cougars, Easop has cemented himself in record books, caught game-winning touchdowns and helped put the team on the map.

But it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Despite his parents being excited for the receiver who had spent three years in junior college, Easop knew that there was something greater than Eastern Michigan.

“Easop wouldn’t sign with them,” Renee said, “and he said, ‘Mom, God has something better in store for me.’ That coach there tried to make him commit to that school.”

His father, Easop Sr., noticed his son’s hunger for a bigger opportunity. He said that Eastern Michigan wanted Easop badly.

“You could tell while he was talking to the coach at Eastern Michigan,” Easop Sr. said. “While he was excited to get an offer, he just felt like he wanted to be playing at a bigger program.”

Easop said he held on to the thought of playing for a bigger school, and he used his faith to keep his dream alive.

Renee was heavily involved with the church while Easop was a child, something that Easop said he believes put him where he is today.

“My childhood was great,” Easop said. “I had both parents in my life. My mom is probably the most important person in my life.”

While his mother kept him involved with his faith, his father kept him involved in sports. He played a variety of them as a child. He saw Easop’s potential for football early in his life.

“Easop never really wanted to play with toys,” Easop Sr. said, “so that was really the first sign. He was one of those kids where he was born to do something. He was definitely born to play football.”

His mother said that Easop used to sleep with a football in his arms, and she needed to pry the ball from his hands before bed every night, and soon she started to see his potential too.

Around age 7, Easop’s father enrolled him in Pop Warner football, where his career began.

“He played quarterback all along, which is funny because I played quarterback, so he kind of took after me in that aspect,” Easop Sr. said.

People doubted Easop throughout his career, he said. His school asked his parents to hold him back a year so he could grow into his position.

“I had a lot of doubters over the years,” Easop said. “There’s people who said I wouldn’t be here, they said I was too small, but that internally motivates me. I might not voice it, but I always internalize what people say.”

Finally, Easop was ready to make a change with his football career. He decided it was time to move positions from quarterback to wide receiver.

“One day his dad said to try out receiver,” Renee said, “and so he started playing there in his junior year, and he did so amazing. I knew then that he was going to go somewhere.”

Along with his faith, Easop’s work ethic and humility are what his father said helped get him to where he is today.

“He would watch tons of wide receiver footage of top wide receivers in the country when he was in high school,” Easop Sr. said. “He’s soft-spoken and humble and I think that will take him a long way. As good as Easop is, he never brags, he always gives the glory to God.”

After his senior season, it seemed he may be done with football. He was not recruited out of high school. His mother helped him with his doubts.

“I was at a time in my life where I was going to give up football,” Easop said, “just because I wasn’t being recruited, but she was the number one person in my life telling me to keep playing.”

And he did. He attended the City College of San Francisco for three years, where he met and developed a relationship with current WSU quarterback Anthony Gordon.

“Me and Easop go back to [junior college] days,” Gordon said. “I noticed that Easop was a special talent the first time I got to throw to him. I realized he could do things that other receivers really couldn’t.”

Gordon has thrown to Easop over 60 times this season already, and the combination has the potential to reach over 1,000 yards by the year’s end.

“Our connection through City and going through here has been a big part of my success this year as well,” Gordon said.

The two have known each other since 2014 and started playing together in 2015. The duo would lead City College to win a state title that year, not knowing they would continue their careers together down the line, Easop said.

“He was out there throwing me the rock a lot,” Easop said, “When you’re out there catching a ball from a quarterback like that you just develop this relationship on and off the field.”

Gordon would move on to WSU following his freshman year, but Easop would not, continuing his junior college career for a bit longer, but his faith persevered again.

“My faith is something that I stand on,” Easop said. “I was at junior college for three whole years, it felt like I was never going to leave, but I’m here now in perseverance and faith.”

After his three years, Easop finally made his visit to Eastern Michigan. He verbally committed but was still itching for a bigger opportunity.

The day before the commitment deadline WSU Athletics reached out to Easop. The coaches did not promise him anything but said they are watching him. The next day they called back and offered him a spot on the team.

“Tears came to my eyes. Literally, my dream came true that day,” Easop said.

Eastern Michigan was the only visit Easop ever made. Now, he is on the Biletnikoff Award watch list, the award for most outstanding receivers in college football. He is in the WSU record books. He has helped lead the team to 16 victories.

And even after all he has done for WSU football, he still has his doubters.

Easop said he will take a stab at the NFL following this season, looking to continue his career catching the ball, and will stick to his faith no matter what happens.