|Joe Jacoby could be in hog heaven as an assistant
coach with Shenandoah after 13 years in the NFL and as many years
away from the game.
Shenandoah athletics photo
Most of Shenandoah’s players don’t recognize Joe Jacoby’s name the first time they meet him.
The imposing figure that he is -- a four-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman who has multiple Super Bowl rings -- is known by just one name to the students: coach.
Most of the Hornets players were still toddlers when Jacoby was pushing defenders around as part of the Redskins’ offensive line of the 1980s and early ‘90s, among the best in franchise history.
“They’re too young,” he said of the current Hornets athletes. “They have to go online and google it and find out all the history about me. That first year I was here, they would come in and tell me things about myself. And I’d say, ‘Yeah, I know that. I lived it.’ ”
Unfamiliarity can be a two-way street, however. And prior to the 2008 season, Jacoby knew about as much about Shenandoah as the freshmen knew about him.
In 1994, after finishing 13 seasons in the NFL, Jacoby poured himself into a Chrysler dealership he owned. He spent years expanding the business in Warrenton, Va., getting a bigger building and coupling it with a Dodge franchise.
He didn’t realize that the small university tucked into the Virginia mountains only an hour up the road would help him rekindle and reconnect with his love of the game.
“Life just throws you one of those things,” he said.
His daughters -- who apply their athletic genetics to swimming -- were away to college. His wife was going through cancer. He was no longer a part of a Redskins radio show.
“I wanted to get back in. So I sold everything,” he said proudly of his decision to again become involved in football.
But by this time, he had been out of the game for a decade and a half. Division I and II coaches weren’t keen on taking a chance on him, he said. He tapped some of his contacts from his playing days, but convincing people that he belonged back in football was difficult.
It was then that a longtime friend introduced Jacoby to Shenandoah head coach Paul Barnes. They clicked.
But there was a problem. No jobs were available.
Jacoby took the only offer Barnes could extend: becoming a volunteer offensive line coach for the Hornets.
“After going through those two or three years prior to selling the business … it was the most rewarding year I had, being involved with those guys, being back in the game,” Jacoby said.
“Seeing the passion and the love that goes on here with the players,” has been the best part of being at SU, he said.
In the first couple of months with the team, a few people would come up and ask for an autograph. But nowadays, it doesn’t happen as often as one might think. Jacoby feels that “a lot of people are apprehensive about asking.” Often when he signs something, it’s because he’s putting his name to a piece of memorabilia that will be auctioned off for a good cause.
And not everyone who chats with him wants an autograph. Usually they want to know what it’s like to play in the pros or who was the toughest defender Jacoby ever faced. Or, they want to know what it was like playing in front of so many people, especially compared with being on the sidelines at Shentel Stadium, which holds only a couple thousand fans.
“You don’t think about that once the game has started. It’s still a game,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if there’s 5,000 all the way to playing in front of 90,000 or 100,000. Once the game starts, at least with me, my mind was focused and locked into what I had to do.”
After settling in that first year, he was given the opportunity to accept the job full-time -- and get paid.
In the two seasons since, he said he has honed the way he instructs the students. He’s always hoping for some consistency in skill from year to year, but things at the Division III level don’t always work out so smoothly.
“Every year is a different makeup of the team, different characteristic, different identity,” Jacoby explains. “That’s the same way with the players. I might have quite a few returners from last year, but they take on a different mindset. It’s a totally different year in working with them and what they can handle.”
His first season, he admits to having been a bit of a storyteller in relating his NFL background. Now, instead of telling the players about a situation he went through during a game, he tries to draw the lesson from his experience, looking specifically at the footwork he employed or the blocking technique he used. To him, that’s what will help the SU players improve the most.
Jacoby is now in his third year on the Shenandoah sidelines, with a wide-open future ahead. The longer he’s back on the sidelines and involved with the team, the more likely the players will know his name again. But for a while, he’ll have to live with the fact that the parents will know him more than the players do.
Rattling the Atlantic Central
Salisbury stands at 6-1 this year, its only loss coming to undefeated Hampden-Sydney. That makes this coming weekend’s matchup against Wesley (their last as ACFC foes) all that much more significant in the battle for a Pool B or C bid. The Gulls pasted Union 52-21 this past weekend with a big second half that contributed to a total of 640 yards of offense for Salisbury. But looking to the week ahead, the game is one that has gone Wesley’s way in recent years. The Wolverines will need the win to put them on prime track for a No. 1 seeding come playoff time, whether that be in the South or, even, potentially the East. Wesley has seen Salisbury’s ground-pounding offense many times, but SU has been executing it ever more efficiently. Both teams need this win, but, of course, only one can have it.
Little Brown Bucket back in Gettysburg
In a Friday night game, Gettysburg was down by as many as 17 points almost midway through the game before a rally brought the Bullets to a 28-24 win over Dickinson and control of the Little Brown Bucket. Gettysburg’s rally involved holding Dickinson to 48 yards and two first downs in the second half while quarterback Kyle Whitmoyer both ran and threw for scores. Saturday marked the first time since 2005 that the Bullets beat the Red Devils.
Pounding it out on the ground
Despite the fact that Shenandoah broke school passing records, the defense couldn’t hold Ferrum back as the Panthers piled on 523 yards (478 on rushing alone) to win in Winchester, Va., 56-20. SU quarterback Daniel Wright had 315 yards passing, making him the first from the school to top 300. His prime receiver, Rico Wallace, also had a school-best 224 yards, which he got off just nine catches. But the most impact on the day came from Ferrum’s rushing attack, which saw three players -- Quintel Banks, Marcus Mayo and Roger Smith -- each break the 100-yard mark. It was the second time this year that Ferrum topped 50 points and was the most they scored since the 2005 season that included a playoff run.
Washington and Lee continues to impress with a 35-34 win over Bridgewater, the first time in more than a decade that the Generals have beaten the Eagles on the road. All of W&L’s touchdowns came on the ground, including three from Luke Heinsohn.
Franklin and Marshall kept itself near the top of the Centennial standings by beating Muhlenberg 17-7. The Diplomats took the lead in the third quarter after sophomore linebacker Sam Massaro blocked a punt and grabbed the ball in the end zone.
Freshman Kentel Noel was the highlight of Christopher Newport’s 37-7 win over Greensboro. Noel returned two punts in the second quarter for touchdowns, 67 and 62 yards, respectively.
Catholic nabbed its first conference win of the season, downing Emory and Henry 33-31. The Cardinals were led on the ground by freshman Mike Pitsenberger, who added two touchdowns to his 97 yards on the day.
Averett ground out a defense-laden 7-3 win over Methodist. The game remained scoreless going into the fourth quarter until AU’s James Wilson put points on the board with a 1-yard run.
Newport News Apprentice picked up win No. 2 on the season, beating Southern Virginia thanks in part to a touchdown with just about 3 minutes to go in the game. The Builders logged nine tackles for a loss in the matchup.
I would be happy to hear from anyone who has questions or feedback regarding the Around the Mid-Atlantic column or Division III football in general. Please write to me at email@example.com. I’m sure that I missed some highlights in the region. I invite you to talk about players and performances on the message board’s Around the Mid-Atlantic thread. Additionally, if there is an idea you’d like to see me write about, post it there or email me.