Not too far from Purdue’s campus stands a newly-built house. It’s the place John Shoop now calls home, symbolic of a fresh start and new opportunity.
After a year away from the game he loves, Shoop found his fit at Purdue. West Lafayette has everything he had hoped to find—stability for his career, a boss in Darrell Hazell whom he trusts, and a comfortable home for his family.
Shoop lives and breathes the game of football, spending long hours in the office. He started as a volunteer assistant at Dartmouth in 1991 and became a respected quarterbacks guru in the NFL. After a five-year run with the Chicago Bears ended in 2003, he worked one season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers then two with the Oakland Raiders, working four different roles in three years.
After 11 years with four NFL teams, Shoop rejoined the college game as North Carolina’s offensive coordinator. He served as the Tar Heels’ play-caller for five seasons, but that ended when a program scandal led to a staff overhaul.
The 2012 football season marked the first time in 21 years that Shoop was without a coaching job. Above all, he missed being around players and coaches. The Purdue Boilermakers would become his new team when he joined in January.
“I just love the camaraderie of being on a team,” Shoop said. “There’s a great bunch of guys here—as a staff and players, it’s a great team. I’m really glad to be a part of that again, that camaraderie.”
Shoop found his way to Purdue through Jim Bollman, then a member of the Boilermakers’ new coaching staff who is a mutual friend with of his and Hazell’s. The new Purdue coach believed Shoop was the right man to lead his offense.
“He’s a brilliant football mind,” Hazell said. “He has so much knowledge about attacking defenses, and he can express it so well to our players.”
There were several draws which led Shoop to Purdue. For his career, he wanted to join a coaching staff at its beginning. It brings stability and promise for his future. For Shoop personally, he felt West Lafayette was a place he could move his family.
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One of the most important factors, though, was Shoop’s belief in Hazell. He feels the program will thrive under its new leader.
“The energy, the confidence, the humility, the dignity, the class, the respect that Coach Hazell brings, it permeates around the whole program,” Shoop said. “He’s the kind of man you want your son to play for.”
At Purdue, a battle at quarterback was set to unfold, with a fifth-year senior and two freshmen vying for the starting job. When news broke that Shoop—the well-respected offensive guru—would be coming to town, the quarterbacks were ecstatic. As a coach, he has exceeded their expectations.
“He’s the most unbelievable football mind I’ve ever been around in my life,” said redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Appleby, a candidate to start for the Boilermakers.
Added fifth-year senior Rob Henry: “As soon as you met him, you knew he was a big-time find for us.”
John Shoop spent 11 seasons in the NFL, including five with the Chicago Bears.(Photo: Otto Greule Jr., 2003/Getty)
Shoop has built a close relationship with his quarterbacks—both on and off the field—the same way he does at each stop. His personality resonates with his players and their respect grows.
On the field and in the film room, Shoop is challenging. He’s constantly offering feedback or criticism, often with enthusiasm, to make his quarterbacks better. But he makes a point to stay close with his guys, whether it’s with a simple joke or deep conversation.
“He’s witty, he has fun, keeps the guys on edge, makes them laugh during meetings, but still finds ways to teach,” Purdue tight ends coach Gerad Parker said. “All those things make him great.”
The players take after Shoop’s colorful personality. There’s a genuine admiration of one another.
“He demands so much from us,” Appleby said. “He expects every single ball to be completed, and if not, he asks what’s going on. But with that said, we have so much fun in the meeting room. We’re constantly laughing. It’s so much fun to be in there with all the quarterbacks.”
The coaching methods Shoop uses are incredibly detailed. His drills are often unpredictable and his film sessions are unique. It’s not just enough to review film of practice; Shoop busts out tape of NFL stars like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, so his quarterbacks can study the game’s greats.
Shoop shares his passion for the game. He’s an encyclopedia of football knowledge and can handle any trivia question thrown at him.
But Shoop’s passion is more than just football. He references Shakespeare and literature to his players. He offers lessons on leadership and the importance of actions—the things more important than touchdowns.
“He’s a very knowledgeable, very passionate person about everything in life,” said Henry.
Sure, Shoop is a football junkie, but his greatest passions are off the field. He’s a man of faith whose wife, Marcia, is a preacher. He has two children, a son and a daughter, and is a devoted father.
As a coach, Shoop truly cares for his players. He tries to mold them for life beyond the field.
“We work for a man (Hazell) and at a place where these guys can be the players that they dream of being,” Shoop said, “the students that they hope to be and their parents hope to be, and the men that God hopes for them to be. I think every day, I try to do [teach] those three things.”
Being around Shoop has brought lightness for the Boilermaker quarterbacks as the battle in camp. His cheerful personality keeps the mood positive, but he also has a reassuring calmness.
One of Shoop’s greatest projects will be Danny Etling, the touted true freshman who has been heralded as Purdue’s future at quarterback. Etling is currently competing for the Boilermakers’ starting spot, but has endured struggles as he meets a steep learning curve.
Shoop’s job is to develop Etling into the quarterback he could become—one of great potential. The quarterback compared Shoop’s intensity to that Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden.
“I think he might be one of the smartest offensive minds in college football,” Etling said. “He’s a great coach and has taught me more than I could’ve ever thought about football. I’m not there yet, but he’s going keep getting me there. He’s going to drag me there until I’m where I want to be as a quarterback.”
Ever since Etling arrived on campus as an early-enrollee in January, he and Shoop have worked closely together—just as the coach does with each of his players. But the bonds go far beyond football.
The closeness of Purdue’s players and coaches is something Shoop takes to heart.
“Just being on a team where guys want to work closely and be together, it’s really fun to be around,” said Shoop.
Now fully settled into West Lafayette, John Shoop is back with the game he loves. Even better, his family is alongside.
Purdue’s new offensive coordinator is a man who carries a great passion for football and an even greater passion for life.
“He’s one of the greatest human beings,” Etling said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better coach.”