For Alabama starting quarterback Jake Coker — a Mobile native who has led the Crimson Tide to the College Football Playoff — it’s been a year of non-stop competition.
It began with competing to win the job as the Tide’s starting quarterback.
Then it was bouncing back from a loss to Ole Miss and competing to end the regular season with an Iron Bowl victory.
And most recently, competing to lead Alabama to another SEC Championship over the Florida Gators.
For anyone curious as to where Coker gets his competitive spirit, look no further than the woman who regularly pounds tennis balls at the Mobile Country Club.
“I think I get way more nervous than [Jake] does,” said Michelle Spires. “He’s the epitome of a competitor.”
Spires, Coker’s mother, played tennis for the University of South Alabama. Her father — Jake’s grandfather — was drafted by the Boston Celtics and New York Yankees. And if that wasn’t enough, all four of Spires’ children are successful athletes.
To say sports are big in their household would be putting it lightly.
“I think sports are good for kids,” said Spires. “It keeps them busy, out of trouble, fit, disciplined.”
Coker has needed every bit of competitive fire to reach the position he’s in today.
As a high-profile recruit out of St. Paul’s in Mobile, Coker attended Florida State under head coach Jimbo Fisher. However, he would eventually serve as a backup quarterback to others, most notably, eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.
“It was hard, it was difficult,” said Spires. “It was not the scenario put before us in the recruiting phase.”
After a tricky transfer to Alabama, Coker would sit again, this time behind quarterback Blake Sims.
“No one will ever understand how tough it has been and what we’ve been through.”
Since winning the starting job earlier this season, Coker has flourished under head coach Nick Saban. Perhaps his most impressive win came this past Saturday against Florida, with Coker using both his legs and his arm in the win.
But his mom believes her son’s perseverance, grit and refusal to quit has shaped the Alabama quarterback you’ll see lead the Crimson Tide in the upcoming College Football Playoff.