In between bites of gumbo and grilled chicken at Sun Belt media day, Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliott recalled his humble coaching beginnings in Boone, North Carolina.
The second-year head coach played his college ball at Appalachian State back in the mid-90’s as a defensive end. Even then, he had a clear vision for being a coach.
That vision didn’t immediately unfold following graduation, as he spent roughly six months as an industrial salesman.
Once the call came, however, Elliott was there at the drop of a hat. The Mountaineers wanted him back in Boone as an assistant linebacker’s coach, a learning position.
Elliott left his former job the day after he was offered the new 7K salary job and had his parents put his old house up for rent.
“This was my opportunity to coach,” said Elliott. “Which I’ve always wanted to do.”
With nowhere to stay in Boone, he spent the first three weeks in his office. It was at that point that he found a cozy home on campus that he made do for four and a half years.
That home was a closet in Broome-Kirk Gymnasium, a building that served as the practice gym for the basketball team.
The gym came with several amenities that Elliott took advantage of free of charge.
“It had a pool in it and I used the pool,” he said. “I shot basketball quite a bit and used the pool. It was a great experience.”
The Panther ball coach wasn’t alone at the time, either. Current renowned Oregon track and field coach Robert Johnson called the building home as well in a closet just upstairs from Elliott.
The two ran a phone line from the downstairs laundry room up through the vents and had a cable line for television.
Elliott even went to the lumber yard to buy wood and make his own furniture.
“I had to build my own bunk bed,” Elliott said. “I put the bed up top like a canopy bed and had a closet down below.”
Elliott was quickly promoted to tight ends coach and became the offensive line coach just after the turn of the century where he honed his craft there for nine years.
In 2010, he was hired by South Carolina and worked with the Gamecocks’ offensive line for another six years before his first head coaching job came calling.
“So many people don’t realize what you go through,” He said. “They look at the final result of what you’re doing now. Here I am the head coach of Georgia State University, nobody realizes that I slept in a gymnasium for years.”
If you ask Elliott about it, he’ll tell you there was nothing that was going to get in the way of his vision. Even his now-wife Summer was dating him as he lived out of a hole in a dusty old gym.
Elliott isn’t afraid of new opportunities and the challenges that come with. When he took the Georgia State job, he spent the first nine months sleeping in his office while his wife and kids were still in South Carolina.
That dedication has helped him his entire career and the early returns at Georgia State have been positive.