At 4 years old, all Jake Coker wanted to be was a country star.
In his family’s home in Mobile, Jake’s mom, Michelle Spires, often walked into a room to find her son standing on chair, belting out the lyrics to Tim McGraw’s “I Like It, I Love it,” as if he had an audience.
“It was hysterically funny,” she said, remembering her son’s performances. “He loved that song.”
Now, standing at 6’5” and 232 pounds, Jake would break that same chair if he tried standing up and dancing on it, but he still likes to sing and dance to country music – if you’re lucky, you may catch him out and about doing so on a night off.
Instead of making himself at home on a chair-turned-stage, Jake is making himself comfortable on a 100-yard field, reading coverages and calling plays as Alabama’s starting quarterback, more Tom Brady than Tim McGraw.
It didn’t help Jake’s singing career that he was raised in a family full of athletes, not entertainers. His mom was, and still is, one of the best competitive tennis players in Mobile. Whenever Jake is home, she likes to challenge him to a quick match.
“It never goes well for him,” she said. “He thinks just because I’m a woman and older than him that he can beat me, but that will never happen.”
Then, there are his three siblings – all athletic. Before graduating in 2010, Jake’s older brother Patrick played free safety at the Air Force Academy, where his younger sister Shelley currently plays volleyball. The youngest, Peyton, is playing basketball at St. Paul’s Episcopal School, like his brother did before him.
Peyton may be younger, but he’s caught up to his big brother in height.
“Jake asks him to please squat down in picture,” Spires said. “He doesn’t like his baby brother being taller. It’s pretty funny.”
The family is a close-knit one, even when spread apart. With Patrick facing deployment with the Air Force, Spires rallied the children for a reunion in Athens, a surprise for Jake. Under the watch of his family, Jake completed 11 of 16 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown.
The 38-10 win may be a great memory, but being able to be with his big brother, his hero growing up, was more important than any final score to both him and the rest of his family.
“It was a really, really special moment,” Spires said.
Jake’s family would have never been able to see him play football at the collegiate level if it weren’t for the University of South Alabama’s current track and field coach Paul Brueske. In eighth grade, Jake debated taking a break from football, but thankfully, for the sake of Alabama’s future, he didn’t follow through with that decision.
As a former assistant football coach at St. Paul’s, Brueske was able to get to Jake before he could leave the sport, and kept his request simple: he needed a quarterback, and he wanted Jake to fill the roll.
“He just decided he wanted to play quarterback, so he did,” Spires said. “He practiced and practiced.”
Once his talent kicked in, it was time to embrace and enhance it, so David Morris, founder of QB Country, a year-round quarterback training and developing program, began working with the young athlete.
“The high school Jake was a lot like his is now – real hard-working, real humble and loves the competition,” he said.
Morris also trained former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron since he was a freshman at St. Paul’s, the same school Jake attended.
The pair – Morris and Jake – continue to work together only during the off-season, since Jake’s busy enough, getting his masters and playing Alabama football. That doesn’t mean they don’t stay in contact, however.
Morris looks at Jake, along with other quarterbacks he trains, like a younger brother.
“We still jab at each other here and there just to talk a little smack from a distance,” he said. “It’s fun, though.”
When the two get together, the smack talk doesn’t stop. The pair will normally get into a heated game of QB Horse – similar to the basketball game.
“I beat him most of the times,” Morris joked, despite the evenly distributed results. “As he got a lot older, bigger and stronger, he started winning more, which I guess was kind of fun for me because I hope he’s beating the coach.”
As evidenced by his 81-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley during the Arkansas game, Jake has a cannon for an arm. Alabama defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson has personally felt the heat of Jake’s hand during practice. He recalled it as probably the hardest pass he’s seen thrown – mainly because he felt it.
“It was point-blank range and I blocked it,” he said. “My hand was numb for a few days.”
Jake knows his strength. He’s tried using it to his advantage against Morris.
“He likes to challenge me with the deep ball kind of stuff, but I don’t let that happen,” Morris said.
Sometimes the strength of his arm gets him in trouble on the field. He has thrown six interceptions in four games, two last week against Arkansas. One was a poor decision, Alabama coach Nick Saban said, but one was not. Spires also holds no punches when discussing the game with her son.
“We’re like, ‘Sorry, you cannot do that. You cannot do that. That was not a good decision, Jake,’ ” she said.
Each and every time, Jake responds, “Yes, ma’am.”
The longer someone is a quarterback, they are bound to notch mistakes, but that doesn’t mean Jake is OK with the errors. It’s how he handles himself after a mistake that is key. Yes, he gets mad at himself, but he does not let it affect him or his team.
“He’s just always positive, no matter what it is,” teammate Richard Mullaney said. “He’ll take the blame for it, I know he will, but it’s not always his fault. He’s always positive, always talking to us.”
Being true to his teammates is something Jake has always held his ground on – that’s why he stayed at …read more
Source:: The Crimson White Sports