Oakmont native Shoop calls PSU job 'dream come true'
By Chris Adamski
Published: Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 10:15 p.m.
During one of their first official acts at Penn State, Nittany Lions coach James Franklin and three assistants went recruiting.
Two of the assistants, like Franklin, are Pennsylvania natives. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop is from Oakmont.
Shoop already had told well-wishers that coaching at Penn State was “a dream come true.” But in the whirlwind of it all, Shoop never had much time to allow it to sink in — until he was out recruiting near Philadelphia with Franklin and receivers coach Josh Gattis.
“I'm sitting here in the back seat, and (Franklin) turns around and slapped me in the chest,” Shoop said, “and he says, ‘Can you believe we're coaching at Penn State?'
“That was a real moment. It really hit me, ‘Holy cow … we're coaching at Penn State.' I didn't have anything to say back to him other than, ‘I know. I can't believe it, man.' ”
Shoop comes from a long line of Washington & Jefferson alumni. Shoop went to Yale and speculates he hadn't set foot on Penn State's campus in three decades before arriving to start work there earlier this month.
But make no mistake, Shoop insists he isn't being insincere in expressing his reverence for Penn State.
“That's legit. That's not some saying or just some recruiting thing,” Shoop said. “I have nothing negative at all to say about Vanderbilt. ... But what people have to understand is this is a tremendous opportunity. It wasn't like … we left for any opportunity. We left for one where we said, ‘This is the one, man. This is where we wanna be.' ”
Shoop's father saw signs his son would become a coach when, as a 6-year-old, the younger Shoop would grab the newspaper, flip to the sports page and compute batting averages and other statistics.
“Bobby literally became the scholar he is as a result of sports,” the elder Shoop said. “He has an analytical mind all as a result of sports. I can say that literally developed out of reading the sports pages.”
A three-sport star at Riverview High in the early 1980s, the younger Shoop was the winning pitcher for the Raiders' PIAA championship baseball team in 1983.
Also a basketball standout, he was the starting quarterback at Riverview during his sophomore and junior seasons, said Bob Rukavina, who was an assistant at the school and now is the men's basketball coach at Pitt-Johnstown. But legendary football coach Chuck Wagner moved Shoop to wide receiver as a senior.
“That's a very difficult thing for a kid like that to do, but wouldn't you know it, he became an all-conference receiver,” said Rukavina, whom Shoop credited as being one of his greatest coaching influences. “That's the kind of guy he was and is.”
Rukavina called Shoop “still one of the top three most competitive guys I've ever coached.”
Shoop and his brothers, Bill and John, were three-sport high school athletes who played at least one sport in college. Bill, the vice president of a medical supplies company, was the only one who didn't go into coaching.
John Shoop has spent roughly half of his 24 seasons of coaching in the NFL. He is the offensive coordinator at Purdue. That means the Shoop brothers could match wits in future Big Ten games.
“When we grew up in Western Pennsylvania, sports was a pretty big deal,” John Shoop said. “I think when I realized I wasn't going to keep playing, I turned to coaching, and I think Bob would probably say the same. It's not something you can do without.
“I can tell you Bob has a deep respect for the game and a deep respect for the tradition at Penn State. He holds that position in very high regard, for sure.”
Kind of the same way that most who meet Shoop regard him. Privately, Penn State players acknowledge he made a strong first impression on them during his initial meetings with the defense and specific players.
“He's a major-leaguer in every regard,” said Wagner, who said Shoop stands out among the best people he coached over a 50-year career in high school football. “He's smart, and you could tell he came from a real solid family.
“I'm happy for him, getting this job — but I'm not surprised.”
At 47, Shoop is the old man of Penn State's new staff. But if his first two unofficial weeks on the job are any indication, he isn't lacking in energy. Shoop joined several assistants on recruiting trips to various corners of the country.
“We're gonna kill it,” Shoop says about recruiting.
It's clear Shoop embraces recruiting. Then again, he does so all aspects of being a coach. Armed with an economics degree from Yale, Shoop spent one year out of college working in sales for Proctor & Gamble.
“It really didn't take very long for me to recognize it was not what I wanted to do,” Shoop said. “The Rest is history. I'm very passionate about coaching. I couldn't imagine doing anything else.”
Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.
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