Mike Strange: Peter Sirmon surprised at finding 2nd career

Mike Strange
University of Tennessee linebacker coach Peter Sirmon conducts drills during practice at Haslam Field on Thursday, August 4, 2011.

Photo by Saul Young

University of Tennessee linebacker coach Peter Sirmon conducts drills during practice at Haslam Field on Thursday, August 4, 2011.

Photo with no caption

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.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 9

PlaidinOrangeandWhite writes:

Great addition to the Vols coaching staff!

springtx_vol writes:

I love the statement, "Making hard things easy." That is what it takes in any career path, in any vocation.

If you have ever tried to lay block or brick, the hardest thing in the world to do is to get everything straight. It takes years of practice. But when you get it, it looks fantastic.

When I was getting my hours in to get my instrument rating, I took my daughter up and let her have the controls of the airplane. She struggled to keep the plane straight and level; it was like watching her learn to drive and keep the car between the lines. It takes practice and work.

Life is aways a struggle, regardless of what you do and who you are. The best at anything, singers, movie stars, athletes, engineers, doctors, managers, moms/dads, all make the hard things easy. The rest of us keep practicing.

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to PlaidinOrangeandWhite:

Great addition to the Vols coaching staff!

Agree. The only thing that saddens me is that he will likely move up in his new career quickly, making it unlikely that he'll be in k-town for long.

Volunatic writes:

in response to FearTheVols1252:

Agree. The only thing that saddens me is that he will likely move up in his new career quickly, making it unlikely that he'll be in k-town for long.

The only way that Coach Sirmon will get a rapid promotion to coordinator somewhere else is if UT's LBs do GREAT this season and next. I could live with that.
Glad he's here-- sounds like he's the right guy for the job right now.

PlaidinOrangeandWhite writes:

in response to Volunatic:

The only way that Coach Sirmon will get a rapid promotion to coordinator somewhere else is if UT's LBs do GREAT this season and next. I could live with that.
Glad he's here-- sounds like he's the right guy for the job right now.

If we could just have an average LB corp this year I would be happy!

Docrok writes:

in response to slaw_way:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

All stories suggest that he and Wilcox did not mesh well! And also apparently Smith did not wish to put in as many hours as was required by Dooley

NoMoreWooAfterGoodOleRockyTop writes:

in response to slaw_way:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Smith's impromptu presser in front of Neyland after he got canned is one of the weirdest things I've ever seen. Did he forget to take his meds that day???

Colliervol writes:

in response to slaw_way:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I heard he didn't play well with the other coaches.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to springtx_vol:

I love the statement, "Making hard things easy." That is what it takes in any career path, in any vocation.

If you have ever tried to lay block or brick, the hardest thing in the world to do is to get everything straight. It takes years of practice. But when you get it, it looks fantastic.

When I was getting my hours in to get my instrument rating, I took my daughter up and let her have the controls of the airplane. She struggled to keep the plane straight and level; it was like watching her learn to drive and keep the car between the lines. It takes practice and work.

Life is aways a struggle, regardless of what you do and who you are. The best at anything, singers, movie stars, athletes, engineers, doctors, managers, moms/dads, all make the hard things easy. The rest of us keep practicing.

gainsville
I am a day late but I want to tell you there are much harder things than trying to lay block or brick. If you have ever tried to plaster a ceiling you know that that one of the most difficult thing to do is to get the sticky side up on the plaster.

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