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Big feet, big problem
Local man cant find size 22 cleat to play football
W Easteriling shoe web
The size 22 right shoe of Brian Easteriling is shown next to a size 11 shoe. - photo by JEFF HARRISON/staff

The task of stopping a charging 300-pound lineman, who is as quick as he is strong, would be difficult to accomplish even if cemented in place.

Stopping a player's rush while on a field of slick grass with no means of traction is nearly impossible, as Brian Easterling can attest.

Easterling, a 6'7", 380-pound lineman, is making a return to the gridiron for the first time since middle school.

The Statesboro resident is practicing with the semi-pro East Georgia Rebel football team in anticipation of a June 4 kick-off to the season, but faces a lingering issue that prevents him from lacing-up and taking the field - Easterling has no cleat to lace.

"I knew it would be hard to find cleats when getting back into football," Easterling said. "I just thought I would do what I can and look for shoes along the way."

The Rebels' tallest player, along with coaches, family members and friends, has spent the past month scouring the Internet and Yellow Pages in search of size 22 cleats.

The large size, said Easterling, is not too difficult to find when looking for tennis or casual shoes, but virtually impossible to locate when shopping for cleats. About 15 people are helping track down any information leading to a solution, he said.

"So far, the closest I have come to finding cleats is finding a size19 offered by Nike," Easterling said.

He became aware of the size 19 cleats after speaking with an equipment manager for the University of Alabama - who had a similar issue with one of the school's players.

The manager directed Easterling to the university's Nike representative, who informed the player that Nike did not carry size 22 cleats, but was hopeful he could fit into the size 19s.

Easterling intends to find a pair of size 18 cleats to try on - he is unable to locate any in Statesboro - to evaluate the fit and determine if Nike's size 19 shoes may be bearable.

"The representative said the size 19 shoes may be able to fit. [The representative] told me to try on an 18-size cleat to get an idea if it would be comfortable enough to wear during a game," said Easterling. "I recently worked in size 18 timberland boots. It was tight, but it wasn't unbearable. I figure, if I could work in those boots for eight hours, then I may be able to wear a size 19 cleat for a couple of hours."

For the time being, Easterling remains without cleats of any size and practices while wearing tennis shoes.

"I just do what I can. I do all of the drills. I just do them as safely as I can," he said. "I do not go all out. I'm very conscious of not overdoing it, and winding up straining something. I practice hard, just not as hard as I could if I had the traction of cleats."

The tennis shoes are not an adequate substitution and may prevent him from returning to football, said Easterling.

"Without a base, what can I do? The feet are the most important aspect of the game," he said. "If you can't run and do everything efficiently, you can't play. Football is all about leverage and traction. Cleats are the key to all of that."

In the weeks leading up to the season's start, Easterling plans on pursuing various leads.

He is currently in communication with representatives for a custom cleat manufacturer that may be able to offer help, he said. He is also fielding advice and suggestions from individuals interested in assisting with the search - People have contacted Easterling after his story landed him a spot on a recent television newscast.

Easterling's goal is to find a viable solution as soon as possible.

"If I can find the shoes, I'm getting them," he said. "Price is not going to be an issue. I'll just have to bite the bullet and do what I have to do to pay for them."

The failure to locate a suitable pair of shoes would leave unanswered the same question that prompted Easterling - who chose not to play football in high school - to return to the sport.

"There is always a what-if in regard to playing football," he said. "I know I have the size and potential. Now that I have a little more free time, I thought: why not give it a try?"

Anyone with any leads on finding a size 22 cleat for Easterling can call him at 912-541-2041.

Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454.


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