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"He was unabashedly himself": Former Gonzaga teammate Matt Santangelo remembers Jeremy Eaton

Eaton passed away late Thursday night from stage four rectal cancer. He helped lead Gonzaga on their Elite Eight run in 1999.

NAMPA, Idaho — 1999 Gonzaga basketball team member Jeremy Eaton passed away Thursday night after a year and a half battle with stage four rectal cancer.

He had a larger than life personality and his former teammate Matt Santangelo kept coming back to that as he reflected on Eaton's life on Friday.

"He made an impression and impact everywhere he went. Not just because of his height or his size, it was really just the size of his personality and the size of his heart," said Santangelo. "Someone who really was unabashedly himself. You got exactly who Jeremy was after two minutes with him, and it didn’t change if you were with him for years and years."

The former Zag who helped lead the program to an Elite Eight in 1999 never held back, especially if you were his teammate.

"Almost everyday, he would come in no matter what rim I was shooting on or warming up at, he would grab a ball and literally stand right under the basket, like right under the net. He’d look at me with that grin on his face and say, ‘You know, if you’re shooting, this is the safest place I could be standing.’ Literally right under the rim. I was like, ‘Thanks, Jeremy.’ It was, like, every day. I know he’s doing that right now wherever he’s at to his new audience. He’s holding court and making friends," said Matt.

Bonded through the history that they made, the group of guys is still very close. After all, they started the run the Zags have been on ever since. 

The mood around that team Friday isn’t so much mourning. It’s bigger, and Jeremy would be proud of that.

"Because we’re all relatively young, it’s been a lot of love," said Santangelo. "To make sure that we recognize the time that we have and the importance it is for us to share what we all mean to each other. What the trip down memory lane means for each other and express that while we all have each other to express it to."

But, this is also Jeremy Eaton we’re talking about here. 

Matt’s message for Jeremy if he could see him right now is one that Eaton would love.

"Yeah, just to get it ready," said Matt referring to the place Eaton is now. "It’s one of those things with Jeremy that there’s always that fine line where you want to be sentimental, but then you think about Jeremy and you’re like, ‘There’s no way I’m going to be soft with him!’ He better have that place dialed in and ready for us when we get there, so we know where all the good spots are."