At age 79, Gregory Eaton begins every week just the same. A few miles on the treadmill, a stop over at his restaurant downtown to help out the staff, and perhaps a business meeting in the evening. He has taken on countless endeavors in his life and shows no sign of slowing up. One of which is his Super Bowl attendance streak. Eaton has not missed a single Super Bowl since they first began in 1967.Eaton is one of three members of the “Never Miss a Super Bowl Club.” He joined in 2017 after being discovered by the group’s late founder, Larry Jacobson, through various news stories published about Eaton. Other members include Tom Henschell, 77, and Don Chrisman, 82. Eaton has been a devoted sports fan for most of his life, but the story behind how he got to his first NFL championship game came from a friendship he still holds dearly to this day.
“It all started with Herb Adderley,” Eaton said. “He played football at MSU and got drafted in the first round by Green Bay. I was a senior in high school and he was a freshman. He’d come to my games and we got to be friends. He said ‘why don’t you come?’”
The Green Bay Packers would go on the win that 1961 World Championship Game 37-0. After his rookie season, Adderley became one of the finest defensive backs to ever play the game and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.
Eaton developed many relationships growing up in Lansing. His family has lived there since 1882 and raised many generations in the area. His youngest sister, Surae Eaton Sangster, said she remembers what an exciting experience it was growing up in a homelife like theirs.
“After the first two, I started taking my uncle, Charlie Brown,” Eaton Said. “He’d be 100 today. When I was a kid, he would take me to all of the MSU games and sports around. He didn’t have a son, just a daughter, so I was like a son to him.”
Eaton’s love for Michigan State and the Lansing community has been a part of his identity for as long as he can remember. His youngest sister Surae said that their family hosted various athletes for dinner on occasion.
“Our family has always been very sports minded,” she said. “We used to have MSU players over at the house all the time. My mother would cook them dinner, and we got really connected with MSU sports during that time.”
She said she does her best to keep an eye on her brother.
“I had said something to him recently about I thought he was slowing down,” she said. “He said ‘Slowing down? I ran five miles this morning, I had a board meeting earlier, then I went over to the restaurant to help them with cooking, and then I have a dinner meeting tonight!’ I just started laughing and said, ‘You’re right, Greg.’ “
Eaton is an ambitious entrepreneur. He began his own company, “Gregory’s Janitorial,” that cleaned schools and businesses in the area. One of his first employees was a young man by the name of Earvin Johnson. “Magic” would go on to be one of best passing point guards basketball has ever seen. Johnson worked for Eaton at just over $1 an hour and received mentorship from him. The two are close to this day.
Eaton has forged many new relationships and memories through his Super Bowl tradition. At this year’s game, he was even invited up to a certain press box for a handshake with a pretty special face.
“The commissioner invited me up to his box this past year, so that was quite the treat,” Eaton said. “There’s all kinds of players that I’ve met. Mean Joe Greene, I mean every great star in the Super Bowl I’ve sort of met.”
Not many men his age can say they still stay as active as he does. Jackie Salazar, a secretary of his for more than 30 years, said she commends him for the way he has maintained himself.
“He has a pretty good regimen for keeping healthy,” she said. “He sees a masseuse once a week, runs three or four miles on the treadmill a couple times a week, and does everything he needs to do on his own. He’s such a huge fan of MSU and the community and gives everything his all. It’s hard to put it into words, really. I just love him to death.”
Eaton has been surrounded by people for most of his life. As a young man, an uncle instilled a love and passion for football that led him to give back early in his tradition of attending Super Bowls.
“After the first two, I started taking my Uncle, Charlie Brown,” Eaton Said. “He’d be 100 today. When I was a kid, he would take me to all of the MSU games and sports around. He didn’t have a son, just a daughter, so I was like a son to him.”
A lot has changed since Eaton’s first Super Bowl, but he says it has always been a special time of year that he would not dare to miss out on.
“I was 26 when I went to my first one,” Eaton said The amazing thing that’s changed is the cost. At my very first one, which was in the Coliseum, it was $10 and $12 tickets. My ticket this year was $2,500. It’s become a very expensive thing to do.”
Despite all the changes over the years, the Eaton Super Bowl tradition has become a firmly rooted part of his legacy, and one that nothing can get in the way off.
“The Super Bowls used to be in January, my birthday is January 17th, so I was always gone. That was like a treat for me for my birthday because I could always get away for those. Now they’re in February. So everyone would know don’t get married, don’t die, don’t do anything on Super Bowl weekend cause I won’t be there.”