As he sat in the stands at Furman's Paladin Stadium on Oct. 23, watching the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team — his father's team — rally from 18 points down in the third quarter, Jacob Huesman knew he'd made his decision.
Before the Mocs' 36-28 win at Greenville, S.C., was complete, Jacob texted his mother, Amy, with the news: UTC was where he was going to play college ball.
In the family, Mocs coach Russ Huesman was the last to know.
"I had no idea that he was going to do that," Russ said of his oldest child committing to UTC in the locker room following the game.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Baylor quarterback, later named Tennessee's Mr. Football Division II back of the year, had told his mom that he was committing to UTC once before. She talked him out of it then, but not the second time.
After the Mocs blew a 21-point lead in the season opener against Appalachian State, losing 42-41, Jacob told Amy he was ready to commit.
"I asked him why and he said he wanted to be a part of the team that beats Appy State because he was so mad," Amy said. "I just told him, 'Don't make an emotional decision. You've got all season. Take your time.' And I told him, 'I don't want you to react to one game. I want you to really want it.'"
Jacob was sure seven weeks later, and he signed his letter of intent last Wednesday. He said he never felt much pressure from his father to sign with UTC.
"He talked to me a little bit more about UTC football, but it was mostly the assistant coaches that were on me," Jacob said. "I think he kind of let them do their jobs, but it wasn't a whole lot different at home."
Seeing his son sign with UTC -- Jacob did it in the kitchen of their house in Signal Mountain before school on national signing day -- was a special moment for Russ. Not only because Jacob was his son, he said, but also because the Mocs landed the quarterback they wanted.
Jacob threw for 1,137 yards and rushed for 1,949 while leading the Red Raiders to the Division II-AA state championship game.
Dad duty suspended
Jacob Huesman, left, stands with his father, Russ Huesman, in the football Mocs locker room after signing to play football with the team last Wednesday.Staff Photo by Tim Barber
The Mocs' coach went into Jacob's recruitment with a strategy, which essentially was to stop being his dad and treat his son as if he were a regular recruit.
"I turned into a college coach who's recruiting a high school kid, and I told my wife this," Russ said. "I said if you want him disciplined, you're disciplining him. If you want him yelled at, you're yelling at him. If you want him to do the dishes, you tell him to do the dishes."
What was Amy's reaction to this?
"It was a little frustrating," she acknowledged.
"One time I was getting on Jacob about something and I said, 'Russ, you need to talk to him.' And he goes, 'I'm not saying a word -- I'm recruiting the kid,'" Amy said, pausing while she laughed at the memory. "I said that's ridiculous. That is not going to fly."
Along with letting Amy play the "bad cop" role when necessary, which wasn't too often, Russ also was less critical when evaluating his son's performance on the field.
According to Russ, that meant that when Jacob threw an interception, he didn't say what he normally would: "Jacob, what were you thinking about?"
Instead, Russ said, it was: "Jacob, you threw a great ball there and your guy ran the wrong route."
Russ also had an ally in the house in his youngest son, 7-year-old Levi. Jacob and Levi are very close, like two peas in a pod, Amy said. When James Madison was heavily recruiting Jacob, Levi let it be known that he didn't like it.
"When Levi told him [James Madison] was too far away, that got him, I think," Russ said. "Levi said, 'How am I going to watch you play, Jacob?'
"He said it on his own, and after I heard him say that I said, 'Levi, you've got to keep working him.'"
Jacob said he knew Levi wanted him to go to UTC, but "I don't know if my sisters [Natalie and Emily] care."
The NCAA recruiting rules restrict a lot the contact that coaches can have with recruits. Coaches can e-mail players all they want, but all texting is banned. Coaches can send recruits messages on Facebook, but they can't write on the recruit's "wall."
Russ didn't face those restrictions when dealing with Jacob, though his assistants did. Russ also could go see Jacob play each week he was in town, but he wasn't allowed to recruit anyone else while there.
"When I went to the school I couldn't go up and recruit David Helton and the rest of the guys, but I could say hi and hug their parents," Russ said. "They're all friends, but I had to be careful. I knew what was common sense and what would be going over the line."
Less than a week after Jacob committed to UTC, Georgia Tech called and said it had a spot for him. But the Yellow Jackets never had a chance.
"In our world, we don't play the game of decommitting," Amy said. "When you verbally commit, you've basically signed in blood, and he knows that. He knew once he said he was going to be a Moc, it didn't matter who called."
Jacob said he was "kind of hoping" Georgia Tech would call so that he'd know that an Atlantic Coast Conference team "does think that I can play there."
He had all the requirements to graduate early and enroll at UTC this January, but Baylor has a policy against early graduations. Jacob said it might have been good to get started early and go through spring practice, but spending a few more months at Baylor isn't exactly a burden.
"Second semester of your senior year is usually pretty fun," he said, "so I'm not that disappointed."
Jacob almost certainly will redshirt this coming season since two-year starter B.J. Coleman is heading into his senior year and UTC has two backups in Graham Nichols and Terrell Robinson. When the starting job is up for grabs, Jacob expects no favoritism from his father.
"If I play, it's because I've earned it," he said. "If I don't play, I must not have earned it."
Said Russ: "We're going to play whoever gives us the best chance to win as many games as humanly possible. Whether my wife likes it or not."
Should Levi one day develop into a player whom Russ wants to recruit, Amy said things will be different than they were with Jacob.
"I've been through it now and I'm completely in charge of Levi," she said, again laughing. "Russ isn't going to have a say at all, and he's going to have to be a dad, not just a coach."
That's a decade down the road, so Russ has plenty of time to convince her otherwise.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...
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