Eason overcomes adversity to win award

On a day when his schedule included his weekly press conference, releasing a veteran player and game-planning, Coach Mike Tomlin didn't mind taking some time out to present a well-deserved honor to one of his players.

Defensive end Nick Eason has had a rough year. His mother has been battling breast cancer. His father had a massive stroke after the first game of the season. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Eason went through his own personal health battle in the spring when he had to have an emergency appendectomy and recovery didn't go as planned.

A laundry list of complications kept him hospitalized for several weeks. He lost 29 pounds, was always in pain, and had no energy. He thought he wasn't going to make it.

"I went over there to see this guy," said Tomlin of visiting him at Magee Hospital in Pittsburgh. "Nick is a big man, a strong man, always optimistic. The guy I saw that day was legitimately going through it. I had to help him walk down the hallway. We had to stop several times and probably covered only about 30 yards. It's put all of this in perspective.

"He looked at me when I was visiting with him that day and told me he wasn't sure he was going to make it out of there."

Eason did make it, and was honored for that courage and strength as the recipient of the Steelers 2010 Ed Block Courage Award winner. The award is presented annually to a Steelers player who has fought back from an injury or tough situation to return to the field.

"This is as man of faith, a strong man," said Tomlin. "His recovery was nothing short of remarkable. He is back, playing ball for us and is his usual self. He is always smiling, doesn't make excuses. I am proud to be associated with him, proud to be his coach and proud he is a Steeler."

Tomlin presented Eason the award at the Arthur J. Rooney Sr. Courage House Luncheon at Heinz Field. Eason even had to battle to attend, as a stomach virus left him a bit under the weather to say the least.

"It's an honor and a pleasure to be here," said Eason. "It's been a rough couple of years. The support from the coaches and teammates has meant a lot to me. It's hard to find quality coaches out there. I have been with two other teams before this and by far this is my best experience.

"Coach says I smile a lot, but in the hospital I didn't. I was never stuck by so many needles in my life. I just smiled. In training camp guys talk about how tired their legs are and being sore, but it beats being in the hospital for two weeks. I will take it all day."

After missing some of the team's last OTA's, Eason turned the corner for the long journey back during training camp. He passed the conditioning test that kicks off camp and despite not being where he wanted to be, he did not miss a practice.

With injuries on the defensive line this season he has been invaluable, stepping in to start several games and play a key reserve role.

"He's a good man, a special man," said Tomlin. "He comes to work every day with a smile on his face. His glass is always half full. He has been through a lot here in the last several months.

"This guy is playing good football for us. I watch him run out of the tunnel every weekend. I watch him take on other 300-pound men. It's truly remarkable this guy is able to do what he is doing given what I saw a few months ago."

The ordeal has given Eason a new perspective on life, a deeper appreciation for the small things and an understanding that things can change without notice.

"You never know what life is going to present to you," said Eason. "I don't make excuses. We are all going to experience different things. Life is not perfect. You have to push through adversity. That is what it is all about."

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