A couple of Southeastern Conference defensive coordinators will be watching this week’s Division II-AA East/Middle Region matchup between Father Ryan and Brentwood Academy.
But scouting for talent won’t be the main objective.
When Tennessee’s Bob Shoop and Mississippi State’s Peter Sirmon tune in to Friday’s online broadcast, it’ll be to watch their sons play — something they’re unable to do in person.
Jay Shoop at Father Ryan and Jackson Sirmon at Brentwood Academy say their fathers follow their high school games via online broadcasts since they are unable to attend in person due to their coaching responsibilities.
“It’s hard not seeing my dad all the time, but the commute isn’t that long and we make it work as a family,” said Father Ryan senior Jay Shoop, who lives in Nashville with his mom, Maura, while his dad lives and works in Knoxville. “Sure he’s a busy guy and it’s a demanding job, but I talk to him at least every night.
“He’s a dad first and then a football coach. We’ll talk about life, but football will surely be involved in the conversation.”
The setup has its ups and downs, including early trips to Knoxville on Saturdays when the Vols play at home.
“On the weekends we go to Knoxville,” Maura Shoop said. “We leave bright and early — sometimes dark and early — on Saturday morning, and he gets to spend time with him that way. To be truthful, with the life of a football coach he really wouldn’t see him that much anyway during the season, so this part of the year doesn’t seem like anything different than if he was living in our own house.
“It’s what our kids know, and they’ve grown up like that so it’s really not that much different. And to be honest, 2½ hours away is not that difficult. It’s manageable.”
There’s a similar setup in the Sirmon family. Jackson, a junior at Brentwood Academy, lives in Brentwood along with his mom, Lindsay, and sisters Austyn, Savannah and Sadie, while his dad, former Tennessee Titans linebacker and first-year Bulldogs defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon, lives about five hours southwest in Starkville, Miss.
Jackson Sirmon, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker, has fit right in with the defending Division II-AA state champion Eagles, registering 24 tackles, a sack and an interception in five games. But the reason he’s at Brentwood Academy has little to do with football.
“My dad played for the Titans when I was younger, so we knew a lot of people here,” said Jackson Sirmon, who played at Loyola High School in Los Angeles last season while his dad coached linebackers at USC. “Also my sisters like cheer, and Starkville really didn’t have the cheerleading they wanted, so we thought it would be best to be here.”
Sirmon’s sisters Austyn and Savanna are cheerleaders at Brentwood Academy.
“It’s not ideal,” Jackson Sirmon said of the long-distance relationship with his dad. “I don’t like it, but we get to see him on bye weeks and we’ll get to see him during the offseason, so we make it work.”
For the younger Shoop, who has attended Father Ryan for all but the fall semester of his junior year, the transition hasn’t been quite as difficult.
In fact, the 6-1, 175-pounder called it an “easy decision” to return to Father Ryan instead of attending a school in Knoxville.
“It’s been pretty cool coming back to Father Ryan and just being able to be back here with the community,” said the Father Ryan senior, who played at State College (Pa.) High School in 2015. “The transition has been easy just because we’re so familiar with this place and we love the school.”
Bob Shoop has seen one of his son’s games in person this season — the Sept. 2 game at McCallie. He plans to attend the Oct. 21 home game with Ensworth because the Vols are off that weekend.
“It is what it is,” Bob Shoop said. “A lot of people do those type of things. … We fell in love with the area and wanted that to be our home. It has worked out well.”
In addition to playing for a new coach, first-year Irish coach Brian Rector, Jay Shoop has also had to learn a new position.
“He probably wasn’t a natural quarterback to start, but we needed him to play at that position,” Rector said. “Maybe it was a little bit rough at first, but every week he just keeps getting better and better. He certainly has a lot of those intangibles and you can tell he’s been around the game a lot.”
MOST POPULAR STORIES