MISSOULA — Kobey Eaton's beaming smile is contagious. 

The 6-foot-3, 180-pound sophomore wide receiver's pearly white grin paired with his infectious positive attitude is what he's best known for within the confines of Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

"First thing, Kobey's attitude is great," wide receivers coach Mike Ferriter said of what stands out to him about his young wideout. "He brings a great attitude. You know what you're going to get out of him every single day.

"His attitude is contagious. He's positive and uplifting. The other guys feed off of it. Even for a guy who's not getting a ton of reps in games, the other guys feed off his attitude. They understand that's the expectation is to be positive and come out and practice hard every day."

Eaton is a reserve who has yet to register a catch this season. 

But that's all right. His main role isn't at receiver — it's at kick returner. 

Eaton is Montana's go-to guy on kickoff returns and is second on the team with 190 yards on 19 returns. 

"Special teams is a very slept on thing in the world of football," Eaton said. "Especially to the general population, like special teams is a side thing to football. Special teams is really fun. Being back at kick returner, you know that it can go two ways. It can either go really good or really bad. That's part of the job. It really means a lot to be back there and make a positive difference with the team."

Eaton's effort on special teams stands out, especially to his position coach.

"Kobey's got great top end speed, which makes him dynamic as a kick returner," Ferriter said. "We're starting to do some things better there than we have early in the season. I think you're starting to see what he could potentially do there.

"The other great thing about Kobey is, he knows that right now, that is his role on the team and he takes that very seriously. He's gonna do anything he can to help the team and right now, being our primary kick off returner is his role."

His speed comes from his early playing days and his track and field experience.

Eaton began playing football when he was a fifth grader and was a running back at first.

"My idol back then was Reggie Bush," Eaton said, laughing. "That was my thing. I was really tall and skinny, but I still thought I was Reggie back then."

In high school in Vancouver, Washington, Eaton was a sprinter and earned "sprinter of the year" honors his senior season and was tabbed to the all-league team. 

He ran the 100- and 200-meter dash and anchored Evergreen High School's 400-meter relay. 

He also played basketball, but he said he just played that, and ran track, to stay in shape.

"I kinda did all three sports to just stay in shape year round," Eaton said. "I knew going into my sophomore year of high school that football was gonna take me the furthest because that's where I had the most success. I developed skill faster and was stronger in football than I was in my other sports. Everything else was a compliment after that just to stay in shape."

That speed, paired with his attitude and work ethic, is what will set him apart going forward. 

Ferriter already knows.

"He's a guy that at the drop of a hat, you know you can put in the game and I'm very comfortable with him being in there," Ferriter said. "He just works through it and keeps working and working. He's still a younger guy and he's got a bright future here."

Amie Just covers Griz football for the Missoulian, among other things. Follow her on Twitter @Amie_Just or email her at Amie.Just@406mtsports.com.

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