Georgia Tech O-lineman skipping his senior season to go pro in racing

As a boy, Eason Fromayan got to sit in a real race car. He hopes to be driving one someday. Courtesy of the Fromayan family

Georgia Tech offensive tackle Eason Fromayan has had his fill of football, so he made what some might call an unconventional choice.

After the Yellow Jackets play Kentucky in the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, next week, Fromayan will hang up his helmet and shoulder pads with one year of eligibility remaining and start training to earn a spot on a NASCAR pit crew.

The transition feels natural to Fromayan, who has been an auto racing fan from childhood, rooting on Jeff Gordon (even dressing up like him for Halloween) and attending more races across the Southeast than he ever did football games.

Fromayan says there are a “whole lot of pictures of me wearing Jeff Gordon gear all around the house.”

As NASCAR pit crews have increasingly turned to athletes to fill their spots, the options have opened up for former football players. One NASCAR coach estimated former football players make up 35-40 percent of pit crews, and that number is growing. Fromayan compared the competition to earn a spot to recruiting and signing day, where racing teams hold combines and vie for the services of the best athletes available.

Fromayan understands he might have to start in the minor leagues so he can get in some quality reps, but the goal is to land on a Sprint Cup team. There are plenty of role models to turn to, from former NC State tight end Asa Watson to former Wake Forest linebacker Dion Williams -- the poster child for athletes-turned-crewmen.

At a race in Atlanta in 2015, Fromayan was walking in the pits. Williams noticed his Orange Bowl ring from the win over Mississippi State. The two started talking, and Williams told Fromayan about what he needed to do to work on a pit crew.

The idea was planted. In the meantime, Fromayan kept playing football and did an internship at the Atlanta Motorsports Park as a corner worker, where his job was to watch a specific area of the race to make sure there were no accidents and drivers were racing clean.

With graduation looming, Fromayan decided to go for his NASCAR dream last month. As a Georgia Tech graduate, he could walk away feeling good about his decision even though he could have played for another season. Fromayan has started nine games in 2016 at both tackle spots, and would have returned as one of the most experienced players on the Jackets offensive line.

“I guess it’s unusual to cut a career early like that, but I’m graduated and everything,” Fromayan said. “We can end it on a high note. You never know what can happen coming up, so if there’s an opportunity to better my situation, it seems right to take it.”

Fromayan, at 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds, would qualify to be a gas man or jack man on the six-member pit crew. The combines that the potential crew members attend are similar to football combines, and include tests on the bench press and vertical jump as well as 40 times in addition to NASCAR-specific drills depending on the role you want (carrying tires, jacks or gas canisters, for example).

Georgia Tech quarterbacks/B-backs coach Bryan Cook and strength coach John Sisk have ties to NASCAR crew member coaches, so that also has helped Fromayan.

The goal after landing a job as a crewman is to save up enough money to be able to land on a team that races in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, the official kickoff to the auto racing season in North America. If he is able to do that, Fromayan would be the first NASCAR pit crewman to drive a car in that race.

“It would be a heck of a story if it all works out,” Fromayan said. “It requires a lot of money, and a lot of dedication to do that, but hopefully through the pit crew it would be a unique way to accomplish that goal.”