In the days when he was fighting off blockers and trying to tackle Edgerrin James or Fred Taylor, he never saw any of it pointing to a life in coaching.
"I enjoyed playing, I enjoyed football, but I never thought it would be a career path,'' Peter Sirmon said Thursday.
That's why he took out a real-estate license when he retired from the Tennessee Titans. That's why he dabbled in broadcasting.
"A fluid situation,'' is how he described his immediate post-NFL status.
But after a year away from the locker room and the practice field, where should he find himself one day in 2008 but in Ellensburg, Wash., coaching football.
Coaching linebackers at Central Washington University. A volunteer, unpaid. But he was glad for the invitation from the head coach, a pal who had grown up down the street in Walla Walla, Wash.
"I knew it was something I could get excited about and enjoy every day,'' Sirmon said.
After two more years of not getting paid — other than tuition for grad school — Sirmon is, at 34, finally a salaried, full-fledged college coach, the newest member of Derek Dooley's Tennessee staff.
Last year's grad assistant gig turned into a full-time job coaching linebackers when Dooley dumped Chuck Smith after the season.
"Pete,'' said defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, Sirmon's college teammate at Oregon, "is a high-output, low-ego guy.
"He's played the position at the highest level. He's extremely smart, he's a great communicator, he can teach the game and the guy works his butt off.
"That's what coaching is.''
Sirmon indeed played the position at the highest level. He was a starter for five of his seven years with the Titans.
The college coaching ranks aren't exactly crammed with former NFL starters. In the SEC, only two assistants other than Sirmon had significant careers as NFL starters, Bryant Young at Florida and Steve Brown at Kentucky.
It's not a natural progression, for whatever reason. Maybe the reason is the salaries NFL starters command. If they're not set for life they're at least set enough to not want to "work their butts off" as required by college coaching and recruiting.
"I don't think it's hard work,'' Sirmon said. "It's time consuming.''
Recruiting has been the steepest learning curve. Sure, NFL credentials are helpful but he said he doesn't want to use them to manipulate kids into thinking their NFL dream is an easy ride to a sure thing.
"I haven't been around long enough,'' Sirmon said, "so I don't really have an angle.
"I just talk to 'em like I like 'em, like I do.''
The coaching part is more familiar.
"The biggest thing,'' he said, "is managing personalities. And trying to make hard things easy.''
It's early in the game, but it still feels like something he can get excited about and enjoy every day.
He's even getting paid. Sounds suspiciously like a career.