BLACKSBURG, Va. — Shane Beamer stood staring out over the field, a headset covering his ears and a football playbook spread open before him. He called plays to an assistant below on the field and his players lined up and ran them.
It was the early 1980s and Beamer, the son of longtime Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, wasn't yet a teenager.
The headset was Fisher Price, plugged into nothing. The players included Shane's younger sister, Casey, and three other kids from the family's Blacksburg area neighborhood.
Shane's playbook was from 1974 and came from his dad's stint at The Citadel.
"Some guys like toys and things like that," said Shane Beamer, now Tech's associate head coach, running backs coach and recruiting coordinator. "I always liked looking through playbooks."
So those close to the Beamer family say it was no surprise that Shane followed his famous father's footsteps into coaching after graduating from Tech in 1999.
"It would have been more shocking if he had not gone into coaching," offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said recently.
In fact, the only person who expressed any reservations about Shane making the X's and O's of the gridiron his profession was his father.
"When he first told me that's where he was thinking of going, my question was, 'Are you crazy?'" Frank Beamer said. "'Are you completely nuts? You've lived in this house.' And of course, the first few years weren't great years around here. And he lived through that. Heard his dad called a bum and the moving van's going to be there soon. That's kind of what made me feel good about it. He'd seen tough times and he'd seen good times."
It wasn't just the pressure. As a coach's son, Shane Beamer understood early on the hectic schedule football coaches keep. Father's Day is one of the few special days the Beamers celebrate without the specter of a game or the pressure of recruiting looming over it.
Thanksgiving comes during the stretch run of the season. Christmas and New Year's are in the throes of bowl-game preparation. Mother's Day?
"Falls during May recruiting," Shane Beamer said. "I've [messed] up that one before."
But Father's Day has produced mostly success stories, most centered on the family's lake house in Lake Coney, Ga., where they've been going since 1989.
The trips often include golf outings, a favorite pastime of the elder Beamer. In fact, many of the gifts Shane got for his father centered on the game. There were calendars full of pictures of famous golf courses and books on golf.
"He was never a big necktie guy," Shane said.
This Father's Day, Shane said he'll leave selecting a gift for dad to his wife.
The Beamers are charging their batteries for what will be Frank's 26th season leading the Hokies. He is now the winningest active and longest-tenured coach in Division I football.
Shane said he doesn't see any signs his dad is slowing down. And both men just shrug off questions about the future, especially when asked whether Shane is being groomed to take over the Tech program his father has directed 1987.
"I just laugh," Shane said. "That's so far down the road that I've never even thought about it. It's nothing that's ever come up. There are eight other coaches on this staff that do a great job."
Frank said he doesn't plan to pick his successor.
"That's for someone else to decide," he said. "We have other really good coaches on the staff. When that point in time comes, someone else has to make that decision."
Shane said he would like to become a head coach one day and would consider taking a coordinator's job, depending on the details.
He grew up around the game, bouncing from college town to college town as his father moved jobs. He learned a rigid sense of punctuality after being late for the team bus while Frank was coaching at Murray State. Shane was in an arcade playing video games when the team was ready to leave for that day's game, earning a stern rebuke from his father once he got on the bus.
But unlike many sons of noted coaches, Shane opted to lay his professional foundation far from his father's stomping grounds.
"If I was ever to coach at Virginia Tech, I needed to get out on my own and make my own name," he said.
He left Blacksburg in 1999 and took graduate assistant jobs at Georgia Tech and Tennessee, then full-time gigs at Mississippi State and South Carolina. He coached offense, defense, special teams and served as a recruiting coordinator.
"I think the thing he's been fortunate to do is get knowledge in all areas," Frank said. "To me, that's a real, real plus."
Over the years, the two men only occasionally talked about Shane returning to Tech. Shane met his wife, Emily, in Starkville while at Mississippi State. The couple had their two daughters, Sutton and Olivia, while living in Columbia and Shane was coaching at South Carolina.
For now, however, he's happy coaching on his father's staff and continuing the family tradition of spending Father's Day together at the lake.
"Having my two children there and seeing him as a granddad is really neat," Shane said.
Read more about the Hokies at TimesDispatch.com
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