Jake Coker is, finally, standing in the spotlight.
After a college career that took him from Florida State to backup to Alabama standout, Coker is finally in his element, leading the Crimson Tide to the National Championship game on Monday night.
But while Coker’s road has never been easy, he’s never allowed himself to waver. And his family has never doubted him. In fact, they’ve been the most consistent source of support for the QB
That won’t change when he lines up against Clemson on Monday night. Here’s everything you need to know about the Coker clan, including their strong ties to Alabama, athletics and he Air Force:
1. Coker’s Oldest Brother, Patrick Brown, Is in the Air Force
Over the past few games, Coker has started to establish himself as one of the strongest football players in the country, but he’s the first to admit, he draws him strength from someone even more impressive; his brother.
Coker’s oldest brother Patrick Brown is a U.S. Air Force captain and an A-10 Warthog pilot who is currently deployed in the Middle East. Brown, who was stateside earlier this year to see Coker play at Georgia, is Coker’s hero.
“If you could have seen them after the game, I don’t think there was a dry eye,” Coker and Brown’s mother Michelle Spires said. “Patrick is a lot of inspiration for Jake … I think he plays for Patrick.”
Right now Brown is deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, which is the United Sates’ targeted operation against ISIL. Prior tot hat he served at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar as the U.S. Air Forces Central Command A-10 liaison officer in the Combined Air & Space Operations Center.
2. His Family Was Very Close to Former Alabama Recruiter Jeremy Pruitt
Coker had always wanted to play at Alabama. Alabama, however, didn’t always want Coker.
In fact, by the time the Crimson Tide started calling, Coker had already committed to Florida State. Despite that, then-Alabama recruiter Jeremy Pruitt would not take no for an answer and Coker’s mother, Michelle, wasn’t particularly pleased. She told CBS Sports:
I called Jeremy and said, ‘Quit sneaking in the back door. Do you understand the word ‘commitment?’ Jeremy got a little uppity with me but it didn’t last very long. From a mother’s standpoint, he was wrong. I still think he was wrong. I called him on it.
While it wasn’t an auspicious start, Pruitt’s relationship with the Coker family lasted longer than expected and it’s now one of the most important they have. Pruitt eventually took over as Florida State’s defensive coordinator in 2013 and is now back at Alabama to recruit until the end of the 2015 season. Then, he’s slated to take over as the Crimson Tide’s new defensive coordinator.
3. Coker’s Grandfather Was Drafted by the Boston Celtics & New York Yankees
While the rest of us debate Coker’s possible future on the NFL, there’s already a legacy for the Alabama standout to live up to. His grandfather was drafted by both the Boston Celtics and New York Yankees, but he never got a chance to make his pro debut, instead serving in Korea.
It was a history that has spawned one of the most competitive families around. And one that has come to shape Coker himself.
The 14th of 17th grandchildren, all of whom regularly staged baseball and football games at the family farm, Coker says that the competitive nature of his family has rubbed off on him on the gridiron as well.
“We’d have epic games — whatever it takes — and all the family would watch,” his mother, Michelle Spires told CBS Sports.
Michelle herself is also an athlete. She played tennis at the University of South Alabama during college and still plays competitively in Mobile.
4. His Sister Played Volleyball at Air Force
Coker doesn’t have a lock on athletic talent in his family.
His sister, Shelley Spires, was a standout volleyball player at St. Paul’s Episcopal and competed at the club level with the Mobile Storm before taking her talents to Air Force. During high school she set the Alabama state scoring record of 5,000 points in 2014, winning the title by nearly 700 points.
She also served as a coach for the freshman team during high school and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Expeditionary Survival and Evasion Training (ESET) in the summer before her freshman year of college. In addition to volleyball, Spires competed with the Air Force track and field team and earned the program’s Newcomer of the Year award.
5. Coker’s Brother Is a High School Junior & Standout Basketball Player
Wrapping up the athletic family run is Coker’s younger brother, Peyton Spires, a high school basketball standout at St. Paul’s Episcopal. The 5-foot-7 junior forward is averaging a team-high 15.5 points and seven rebounds a game this season.
Although he still has, almost, two more complete seasons on the hardwood in front of him, Spires is already starting to draw some Division I offers. His first scholarship? Air Force.