SAGU’s junior linebacker extraordinaire Ethan Eastwood accepted the Central States Football League Defensive Player of the Week award Monday after recording 10 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown during a 47-7 win against Wayland Baptist University on Saturday.

The award is the first of the season for Eastwood, who graduated from Maypearl High School in 2011.

Lions head coach Frank Tristan called Eastwood an incredibly tough athlete and team player with a tremendous work ethic, who is able to make a multitude of plays at the line of scrimmage.

He also praised his starting linebacker’s ability to make opposing running backs bounce outside.

“His numbers are actually down from last year, but his performance is making our defense as a whole more effective,” Tristan said about Eastwood’s impact this season. “He is paying a lot more attention to his pass drops and getting in the passing lanes, which is forcing teams to pass on the edges. He has continued to work on his quickness, allowing him to beat offensive linemen to the spot instead of having to go through them.”

Tristan said he and his staff thought Eastwood was going to end up being a defensive linemen when he came to SAGU as a freshman, but he worked on his speed and became an outstanding linebacker.

“His mental toughness and sheer determination is what has made him become a great defensive football player,” Tristan said. “More importantly, Ethan has grown into a great man of integrity. Watching him become the man of God that he has become is the most rewarding part of being his coach.”

Eastwood is second on the team in tackles (55), has blocked a kick, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble this season.

He said he learned persistence and how to keep his eyes down the road and locked in on his goal during his senior year at Maypearl High School.

He also joked about his arrival at SAGU being kind of a fluke.

“I was playing in an all-star game in North Dallas when I met a kid who had already committed here,” Eastwood said. “His dad saw me play and told coach Godding (SAGU’s former coach) to call me. I didn’t think he would, but he called me two days later.”

Eastwood, who was red-shirted his freshmen year, said he never thought he’d have the kind of impact he’s had over his career and thought it was a big jump coming from a small town like Maypearl, with a population not more than 1,000, to a much bigger one in Waxahachie, where the population is more than 32,000. He attributed all his success to the people around him.

Eastwood said Tristan, who has been a motivator throughout his career and one of the only coaches that invested time and effort into him as a redshirt freshman scout team player at SAGU, gets a large share of the praise.

“Coaching and my teammates have gotten me here,” Eastwood said. “Our front four is insanely dominant and the back half is better than it’s ever been. The coaching’s been great this year. Everybody’s bought in. I’m sold.

“There’s discipline and drive here now. In the past, kids were missing meetings and practices. You had punishment, but it wasn’t strictly enforced. There’s no tolerance for it now. You’re either with us or you’re not.”

Eastwood said though it’s great to get the award, his focus is set firmly on the upcoming game against Arizona Christian University.

If SAGU wins their matchup with the Firestorm at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday at Shadow Mountain High School football field, it will move them one step further to capturing a CSFL conference championship.

“I actually found out about it through Twitter when one of my teammates sent it to me,”Eastwood said. “I got chills and thought maybe he’s (Tristan) right, the hard work’s doing something. Arizona Christian and the conference championship is next. If we prepare like we’ve prepared before and go out there with the determination to want to win that game, they can’t stop us.”

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